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Cablegate: The Eu Trumps the Church: Goc Bucks Church Opposition And

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVB #0545 2030925
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 210925Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8505
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000545

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (BALIAN) AND EUR/PPD

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV HR
SUBJECT: THE EU TRUMPS THE CHURCH: GOC BUCKS CHURCH OPPOSITION AND
PASSES ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW

Sensitive But Unclassified. Please Handle Accordingly.

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Croatian parliament on July 10 adopted
Croatia's first comprehensive anti-discrimination law, despite
strong opposition from the Catholic Church and conservative local
NGOs. The Law on Suppression of Discrimination is a piece of
"umbrella" legislation that prohibits discrimination based on a
number of grounds including race, ethnicity, gender, language,
political convictions, social standing, property, union membership,
education, marital status, disability and gender identity,
expression or sexual orientation. The new law is described by the
GoC as a requirement for Croatia under the country's Stabilization
and Accession Agreement with the EU to adjust domestic legislation
to that of the EU. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Prior to passage the proposed law drew heavy criticism from
groups affiliated with the Catholic Church, who argued that the
law's reference to gender identity or sexual orientation would pave
the way for gay marriages or the adoption of children by gay
couples. The Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) made a number of
appeals seeking deletion of those references from the law.
Representatives of some 120 NGOs close to the Catholic Church
protested against the law in front of the Zagreb headquarters of the
ruling, center-right HDZ party. The HBK even publicly criticized
Deputy PM Jadranka Kosor who led the drafting process, claiming she
misrepresented the facts when she said the church generally agreed
with the draft law.

3. (U) The HDZ rejected the Church's criticism, and argued the law
would not lead to gay marriage or adoption. It also insisted that
the law was based on EU and Council of Europe recommendations.
Several liberal NGOs specifically praised the HDZ and the government
for its decisiveness in pushing this legislation through, but
Vecernji list, a generally conservative daily, noted that this was
the strongest political conflict between the Catholic Church and the
HDZ so far. Cardinal Josip Bozanic, in what many saw as a veiled
attack on the government, said that the Church, while generally
supportive of European integration for Croatia, would also guard
against what he called 'a servile mentality' toward the EU, that
would simply accept any demand made by Brussels.

4. (U) The law, which becomes effective in January 2009, establishes
the Ombudsman's office as the central body responsible for the
implementation of the law. The current Ombudswoman for Gender
Equality, Gordana Lukac Koritnik, told the Embassy that this will
significantly expand the workload of the Ombudsman's office. The
Ombudsman's office will employ two additional advisors and one
expert assistant and will be allocated 1.2 million HRK (263,000 USD)
for salaries and new office space and equipment in the first year of
the law's implementation.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The debate over this law illustrates the sometimes
delicate balance the HDZ faces in managing its relationship with the
Catholic Church. The HDZ is generally attentive to the concerns of
the church, but as in so many other areas, often finds the demands
of EU accession and the broader electorate limiting its room for
maneuver. As local commentators noted, this law represents perhaps
the most direct rebuff to the church that the HDZ has ever
delivered. In a move meant to mitigate the Church's anger, the
government on July 14 also passed legislation that it had promised
to both the church and union activists for years, significantly
restricting shopping hours on Sundays. END SUMMARY.

BRADTKE

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