Cablegate: Croatian Parliament Backs Kosor to Sign


DE RUEHVB #0647/01 3071421
P 031421Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: The Croatian Parliament on November 2 voted
by simple majority to authorize Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor
to sign the Arbitration Agreement (AA) with Slovenia agreed
between the two Prime Ministers on 26 October (ref A). The
GoC hopes Kosor and Pahor will be able to sign the Agreement
in Stockholm on November 4. In the same vote, the Croatian
Parliament authorized the GoC to issue a unilateral statement
regarding the Croatian views of the non-prejudicial nature of
the AA. This statement on non-prejudice will be formally
issued after Kosor signs the deal with Pahor, but before the
Croatian Parliament is asked to ratify Arbitration Agreement.
The main opposition party, the Social Democrats, abstained
in yesterday's vote. In order to secure the two-thirds
majority that should eventually be needed to ratify the AA,
the GoC will likely seek public assurances from the European
Commission that both Croatia and Slovenia will be consulted
prior to the issuing of the list of potential arbitrators.

2. (U) After nearly 10 hours of debate, the Croatian
Parliament on 2 November voted 80 to 9, with 45 abstentions,
to authorize PM Kosor to sign the Arbitration Agreement.
Most members of the main Social Democratic opposition party
(SDP), abstained from the vote and harshly criticized Kosor's
handling of the negotiations. Despite the tough rhetoric,
however, the SDP did not rule out ultimately supporting the
agreement when Kosor brings it back to Parliament for final
ratification. In the same vote, the Croatian parliament
authorized Kosor to make a unilateral declaration on behalf
of Croatia that asserts the non-prejudicial nature of the
Arbitration Agreement, noting that by consenting to the
agreement Croatia has not a priori accepted Slovenia's claim
to direct territorial contact with international waters. The
unilateral declaration will be made after/after Kosor signs
the deal with Pahor. The US and Sweden -- on behalf of the
EU -- will "witness" the unilateral declaration, but the US
and Sweden will not/not co-sign the statement.

3. (U) GoC officials and the Swedish Ambassador to Croatia
told us on November 2 that plans were still in process to
have Kosor and her Slovenian counterpart PM Borut Pahor sign
the AA in Stockholm on November 4. (NOTE: Croatian officials
have noted PM Pahor's public statements that he will not sign
the AA if Sweden intends to witness Croatia's unilateral
statement, but say they have had no direct communication on
the subject from Ljubljana, so are continuing plans as
previously agreed. END NOTE.) After signature, and after
leaving Stockholm, the GoC would issue its unilateral
statement with the US and Sweden witnessing, and then return
to parliament for a second and final debate on the signed
Arbitration Agreement. The government plans to seek a
two-thirds majority to ratify the agreement to avoid any
constitutional challenges that could result if a negative
Arbitration decision would require Croatia to "adjust" its
interpretation of its borders. Croatia,s constitution
requires changes to its border to be endorsed by a 2/3 vote
in parliament.

4. (U) PM Kosor began the Parliamentary debate by telling MPs
that the Government was not abandoning its claims or giving
away its territory by signing this agreement. Kosor told
them that this was a "patriotic decision" about whether
Croatia is about to finish EU accession negotiations, or
whether it will remain in front of the EU doors for the next
10 years. She was also argued that the current agreement is
better than the original Rehn proposal because the deadlines
for the arbitration court will only start when Croatia signs
the EU accession agreement. On 30 October, President Mesic
quieted some critics when he expressed support for the deal
and said rejecting it at this point in time would cause more
harm than good to Croatia.

5. (U) Nonetheless, the AA has come in for some public
criticism from the Catholic Church in Croatia and a group of
intellectuals. In two separate statements, the Catholic
Bishops' Conference Justitia et Pax Commission and a group of
Croatian intellectuals spoke unequivocally against the
agreement. "The Government and the Sabor have no right to
accept this, even at the cost of not joining the EU or of a
continuation of the blockade," stresses the Church's
statement. The 26 Croatian intellectuals -- including
retired military officers, writers, journalists, academics,
scientists and prominent members of the Croatian Helsinki

Committee with political orientations ranging from left-wing
and liberal to right-wing -- released a statement calling the
AA a "humiliation" for Croatia and urging the parliament to
reject it.

6. (U) Opposition parliamentarians attacked several aspects
of the AA during debate, predictably focusing on the
Agreement's Article 3(b), and arguing over the possible
meanings of "Slovenia's junction to the High Sea." Many also
criticized the HDZ's "hypocrisy" for having opposed a border
deal negotiated by an SDP-led government in 2001, but now
demanding this agreement be supported. Another criticism,
and one the GoC had not anticipated, was over the process for
naming arbitrators under the AA. Several SDP and smaller
party parliamentarians, suggesting they had been told as much
by Slovene colleagues, claimed that the Commission would
obviously consult with Slovenia as an EU Member State but not
with Croatia prior to proposing the list of potential
arbitrators. Despite the vitriol, however, the governing
coalition stayed united and even picked up a few opposition
votes in support of the agreement. Furthermore, even while
largely abstaining on yesterday's vote, the SDP has left the
door open to eventually -- albeit begrudgingly -- supporting
the deal in parliament during its final endorsement.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Nobody in Croatia likes the Agreement.
Even supporters view the decision to let an ad hoc
arbitration body tilted toward Slovenia's interests decide on
the final determination of the disputed border areas as a
"necessary evil" to get Croatia into the EU. The SDP,
meanwhile, will seek to maintain the pressure on the HDZ and
the government, and look for any additional ways in which to
criticize the deal. The GoC needs to shore up its arguments
that the deal is an acceptable compromise that is not
pre-determined in its outcome and that will give Croatian
views a fair hearing before reaching a decision some years
from now. Therefore, the GoC will likely press the
Commission to issue reassurances before the ratification
debate that it will consult with both parties prior to
constructing its list of proposed arbitrators. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

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