Cablegate: Croatia: Scenesetter for Das Jones


DE RUEHVB #0629/01 2491122
P 051122Z SEP 08 ZDK




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Stu, the Croatia that you will be visiting on
September 10 has changed greatly from your desk officer days
and even from the time we worked together on NATO issues.
Croatia has made steady progress in strengthening its
democracy and rule of law, reforming its economy, cooperating
with the Hague Tribunal, and playing a more constructive role
in the region and beyond. With President Bush's early
commitment to support Croatian membership in NATO and his
successful visit here in April, our bilateral relations are
excellent, but need to be broadened and deepened by expanding
our economic relations, increasing exchanges, and making it
easier for Croatians and Americans to travel to each others'


2. (U) Although Croatia has made progress, some legacy issues
remain from the 1990's "Homeland" War, including refugee
returns, war crimes prosecutions, and demining. In all of
these areas, however, President Mesic and Prime Minister
Sanader are committed to finding solutions. Some 130,000
ethnic Serbs who fled Croatia during the war have returned at
least part-time, and Sanader wants to deal with the remaining
cases, perhaps 10,000 to 15,000, by the end of 2009.
Croatian courts are trying war crimes cases involving
defendants of all ethnicities in a reasonably fair manner,
including high-profile cases transferred from The Hague
Tribunal. However, the trials can vary starkly depending on
the court and judge involved, and concerns remain about a
large number of outstanding war crimes indictments and in
absentia convictions against Serbs that are often poorly
documented. On demining, Croatia is perhaps the only
severely mine-affected country in the world to self-fund the
large majority of its demining process, but with 1000 sq. km.
of mine suspected territory still remaing, our assistance, $2
million annually, is greatly appreciated.

3. (U) Another major set of challenges is in reforming the
judicial system, and developing more effective responses to
and controls against corruption. While the judiciary remains
an area for further reforms and the public still perceives it
as one of the country's main sources of corruption, we have
nevertheless witnessed steady progress. Court backlogs have
shrunk 30 percent in the past two years, and improvements in
court administration are expected to further speed the
process. The Ministry of Justice, with past help from USAID
(which closed its mission here earlier this year) and current
attention from the EU, is actively improving the training of
judges and supervision of judicial administration. Croatia's
implementation of its National Strategy to Combat Organized
Crime and Corruption is yielding some results, though so far
more indictments than actual convictions. The government
has, however, established police and prosecutor task forces
to combat organized crime and has begun freezing assets in
narcotics cases.


4. (SBU) As the legacy of the war fades, and key reforms take
root, the focus of our bilateral relationship has shifted to
place a much greater emphasis on Croatia as a partner and
ally. As you probably heard from Ambassador Grabar-Kitarovic
during her introductory call with you, Croatia has moved from
being a consumer of international security resources to a
provider. Croatia's commitment to international peace and
security includes a nearly 300-troop ISAF contingent in
Afghanistan; liaison officers involved in Operation Active
Endeavor; soldiers and police in 11 UN peacekeeping missions
from Kosovo to East Timor; and an active partnership in both
the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Adriatic
Charter. A major focus of our efforts on our bilateral
relationship is on bolstering Croatia's capacity to be a
contributor to international security, either militarily,
such as in ISAF, or politically, in venues ranging from the
UNSC to the IAEA. We do sometimes see nuanced differences of
emphasis in the attitudes of the Government led by Prime
Minister Sanader and the Office of President Mesic, but both
are unquestionably pro-Western in outlook and emphatic in
their support for NATO and EU membership. Indeed, these
goals are universally shared by every serious political party
and politician in the country.

--------------------------------------------- --------------

5. (U) Upon your arrival from Sarajevo, DCM Vivian Walker
will greet you to escort you up to my residence, where you
will have an opportunity to freshen up and we can spend some
time talking one-to-one. At 10 a.m., you will meet with
Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic, one of the younger
members of the ruling HDZ party's leadership. Discussion
will likely center on the current state of the ratification
process for Croatia's NATO accession, other bilateral issues,
as well as developments in the region. Given events in
Georgia, I would expect Russia also to be a topic of

6. (SBU) As you know, Croatia's top priorities are completing
NATO accession and accelerating the EU accession process.
The United States has earned significant credit with the GoC
by ensuring that the NATO process has moved as quickly as
possible, in fairly stark contrast to Croatia's halting
progress toward the EU. Public opinion in Croatia remains
favorable to NATO with more than fifty percent of the
population supporting membership, a number which is in the
same range as support for joining the EU. The GOC continues
its NATO outreach efforts, and after our meeting, the Foreign
Minister is opening a NATO exhibit at a local gallery.

7. (SBU) On regional issues Croatia tries to send good,
responsible messages to the Serbs, but since Kosovo
recognition, the interaction has grown more strained, and in
contrast with EU countries, Serbia has not returned its
Ambassador to Zagreb. Serbia remains one of Croatia's
largest markets for exports and investment, however, and both
President Stjepan Mesic and Prime Minister Sanader firmly
support Serbia's future in Europe and NATO, on the condition
that Serbia meet its obligations to the ICTY just as Croatia
had to. (NOTE: One of the two remaining ICTY fugitives,
Goran Hadzic, is a rebel Serb leader accused of crimes in
Croatia. END NOTE.) On Bosnia, Zagreb's official policy is
solid: they do not support a third entity. PM Sanader is,
however, very eager to see something done to protect and
guarantee a role for the Bosnian-Croat community in BiH
government structures.

8. (SBU) Jandrokovic may raise two specific goals Croatia has
previously expressed, inclusion in the Visa Waiver program
and the hope that the mandate of the OSCE Office in Croatia
terminate at the end of this year. On Visa Waiver, we have
acknowledged their interest but tried to keep the Croatian
government focused on the need to meet the necessary
pre-conditions such as issuance of ePassports with biometric
data, a step that is likely a year or more off. On the OSCE
Office, that debate is only likely to be seriously engaged
later in the fall. We have been sympathetic to their desire
to draw-down this costly presence, but also need to encourage
the GoC to consider carefully what damage they might do to
their relations with some EU member states if they push too
hard without a better story to tell on housing numbers for

9. (SBU) The other area of our bilateral relations, where we
are trying to do more, is bilateral trade and investment. As
we have discussed, the postponement of the Vienna Conference,
has left us with little to show in response to the Prime
Minister's request to President Bush for support for closer
economic ties. We are working on a visit to the United States
by a Croatian trade delegation, headed by Deputy Prime
Minister Polancec, but this trip, too, may be postponed,
given our election calendar. Your visit may also concide
with some bad news on the economic front. The FAA is likely
to find that weaknesses in Croatia's civil aviation authority
will make Croatia a "category two" country. Even if this is
not a finding about Croatian Airlines, the government and
airline management are concerned about the damage that could
result to Croatia's crucial tourist industry.

10. (U) After your meeting with the Foreign Minister, you
will have an opportunity to see our Embassy facilities and
meet the country team before we take you to the airport for
your flight to Pristina.

11. (U) I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday.

© Scoop Media

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