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Cablegate: Zagreb Weekly Activity Report- November 20,2009

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DE RUEHVB #0684/01 3241306
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201306Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9667
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 000684

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON HR UK
SUBJECT: ZAGREB WEEKLY ACTIVITY REPORT- NOVEMBER 20,2009

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1. (U) PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY, WITH 12
CANDIDATES:
The State Electoral Commission (DIP) announced on November
18, 2009 that 12 candidates had met all constitutional
requirements, including submitting more than 10,000 valid
signatures, to be included on the first round presidential
ballot set for December 27, 2009. The official campaign
season began on November 19. Candidates are (in alphabetical
order): Milan Bandic (independent), Andrija Hebrang (HDZ),
Ivo Josipovic (SDP), Josip Jurcevic (independent), Damir
Kajin (IDS), Boris Miksic (independent), Dragan Primorac
(independent), Vesna Pusic (HNS), Vesna Skare-Ozbolt
(independent), Miroslav Tudjman (independent), Nadan
Vidosevic (independent), and Slavko Vuksic (DSSR). According
to recent polls, only four to six candidates (Josipovic,
Bandic, Vidosevic and Hebrang, along with perhaps Primorac
and Pusic) have any serious chance of making the second round
run-off on January 10. Independent Croatian-Serb candidate
Veljko Dzakula submitted the requisite number of signatures,
but informed the DIP that he was withdrawing from the race
just before DIP certified the final list. Dzakula in his
withdrawal statement simply indicated his candidacy was meant
to demonstrate that Serbian citizens of Croatia could
participate on equal footing in each and every electoral
event. (DMEGES)

2. (U) CROATIA TO HOLD SPECIAL MINORITY ELECTIONS:
The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its coalition
partner, the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS),
recently resolved an ambiguity between Croatia's
Constitutional Law on National Minorities (CLMN) and Law on
Local Elections. As a result, the GoC in mid-November
announced that special minority elections will be held on
December 6, 2009, to elect a myriad of deputy county prefects
and deputy mayors to ensure adequate minority representation
in local governments, as required by the CLNM. The SDSS has
been pressing for these special elections since mid-2009,
when a new process for direct election of mayors and county
prefects effectively abolished the old system of county or
city executive councils where minorities were often given a
seat. The SDSS pressed the HDZ to support the creation of
additional "deputy" positions reserved for national
minorities and filled via special elections. It is expected
that at least 11 counties and more than 40 cities will hold
these special elections. (DMEGES)

3. (SBU) SENTENCE OF UK WAR CRIME EXTRADITEE GREATLY REDUCED:
On November 19, 2009, Milan Spanovic, a former Serbian
para-military, was released from prison in Croatia when his
sentence was reduced to time served. Spanovic was extradited
from the UK in August 2009, based on a 2004 Croatian arrest
warrant. The warrant stemmed from a 1993 verdict in which
Spanovic and 18 co-defendants were convicted in absentia for
committing war crimes against civilians and each sentenced to
20 years of prison. Crimes included: attacking a Croatian
village, mistreating and injuring civilians, and stealing and
destroying property. The 1993 verdict was based on one
witness' live testimony and other written depositions that
failed to specify the specific culpability of any individual
defendant. In February 2009, the Sisak County State Attorney
had applied to re-open the case, arguing that recent
interviews with witnesses could to lead to acquittals or
milder punishments. While the Sisak County Court rejected
that motion, on appeal the Croatian Supreme Court allowed for
the reopening of all defendants' cases, including Spanovic's.
In the meantime, Spanovic had been extradited from the UK
and detained in Sisak prison. In reducing the sentence, the
presiding judge, a reputed hard-liner, publicly condemned the
1993 verdict for failing to establish personal responsibility
for the crimes committed, and commented that it did not
conform to today's legal practices and standards in Croatia.
(COMMENT: Spanovic's release is a positive step, but the
fact that the conviction was not voided in its entirety --
presumably to avoid giving Spanovic grounds to sue for
unlawful detention -- underlines that domestic courts'
handling of war crimes cases is still not flawless. END
COMMENT.)

4. (U) CRISIS TAX PASSES COURT CHALLENGE:
On November 18, Croatia's Constitutional Court ruled on
requests by President Mesic and over 80,000 individual
citizens regarding the constitutionality of the "crisis tax"
imposed by the government in August of this year. Complaints
focused on the idea that the tax did not share the burden
evenly among citizens. Out of 13 judges on the bench of the
Constitutional court, however, only 2 felt the tax was
unconstitutional. Court president Jasna Omejec said the
special tax law had been deemed constitutional, especially in
light of the principles of a social welfare state, the rule
of the law and tax equality. Upon being asked if he
considered this ruling a defeat, Mesic said he accepted the

ZAGREB 00000684 002.2 OF 002


ruling of the Constitutional Court and that "...it is proof
that the country functions as a legal state." Prime Minister
Kosor said no Prime Minister is happy to make such a
decision, but the crisis tax was a necessity under the
circumstances.
FOLEY

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