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Cablegate: Croatian President-Elect Discusses Foreign Policy

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9812
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

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TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: CROATIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT DISCUSSES FOREIGN POLICY
PRIORITIES

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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: President-elect Josipovic's first foreign
policy priority will be supporting Croatia's EU accession,
where his clear views on some key issues -- including
corruption and cooperation with the ICTY -- should give a
boost to Croatia's prospects for expeditious completion.
Josipovic's second key foreign policy objective will be
improving relations with neighboring countries. He is one of
the only national Croatian political figures willing to
entertain publicly that Croatia might withdraw its ICJ case
against Serbia, although he has said that this could only be
done if Serbia first took additional steps to resolve
outstanding issues. While personally opposed to the
Croatia-Slovenia border Arbitration Agreement, he has pledged
to support implementation of the agreement. On BiH he has
stressed that Croatia should not tell the Bosnian Croat
community in BiH what to do. Post's assessment is that
Josipovic, given his reputation as a reformist politician and
respected legal scholar who has never exhibited a
particularly nationalist streak, should be able to make
significant contributions to both the EU and regional
cooperation objectives. END SUMMARY.

First Priority: Croatia Joining EU
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) In discussions with the media on January 11 and 12,
president-elect Ivo Josipovic elaborated on his foreign
policy priorities. First, he stressed the importance of
Croatia becoming a member of the EU and underscored that the
fight against corruption would be a vital part of this effort
as well as being intrinsically valuable for Croatia's own
domestic interests. Josipovic added that the EU had stricter
criteria for Croatia than other countries that joined in the
past, but that Croatia would be able to meet the benchmarks
and be a better country for it.

3. (SBU) Regarding the ICTY, Josipovic has consistently
called for Croatia to cooperate with the court and even
drafted the original law regarding Croatia's cooperation. He
also told the press on January 12 that as president he would
not pardon anyone who was convicted of murder, rape, being a
member of organized crime, or war crimes.

Second Priority: Good Neighborly Relations
----------------------------

4. (SBU) Serbia and Kosovo: Josipovic emphasized good
neighborly relations as the second key foreign policy
objective for his presidency. Elaborating on this theme,
Josipovic said that ties between Serbia and Croatia had
progressed in the last ten years. He cited cooperation on
missing persons, the procedure for returning cultural items,
and Serbia's progress on war crimes issues as areas of
improvement. The major outstanding issue was that Ratko
Mladic and Goran Hadzic had not yet been turned over to the
ICTY. Josipovic is one of the few national Croatian
political figures willing to entertain publicly the
possibility that Croatia might withdraw its ICJ genocide case
against Serbia, although he has stated that this could only
be done if Serbia first took additional steps to resolve
outstanding issues. He also said that Serbia's counter-suit
for genocide at the ICJ lacked legal grounds. (Note:
Josipovic served as the head of the legal team that drafted
Croatia's genocide case against Serbia at the ICJ. End
Note.) Josipovic believed that Serbia would eventually
reconcile itself with Kosovo becoming an independent country,
but expressed understanding for the GoS's current stance on
the issue. When asked if he would first travel to Belgrade
or Pristina, Josipovic said a visit to Belgrade would likely
be first.

5. (SBU) Slovenia: On the Arbitration Agreement to settle the
border dispute with Slovenia, Josipovic reiterated his view
that it was a result of Slovenian "blackmail," and said that
Croatia had lost rights accorded to it under international
law by accepting the agreement. However, Josipovic stressed
that as president he would respect what had been decided.
(Note: Josipovic was one of the few members of Sabor to vote
against moving ahead with the Arbitration Agreement. As an
international law expert, he is clearly bothered by its ad
hoc nature. However, contacts within the SDP have told us
that they believe his decision to vote against it was as
much, or more, about political positioning in the prelude to
the presidential campaign, as it was about any sense that
Croatia genuinely could have secured a better outcome. End
Note.)

6. (SBU) BiH: On January 12, when asked in an interview about
RS PM Dodik's calls for a referendum for the RS to succeed

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from the BiH, Josipovic stated that he viewed such a step as
not in accordance with Dayton and unacceptable to the
international community and BiH. He also stressed that he
did not think Croatia was in a position to tell the Bosnian
Croat community what to do. In an interview with BiH media,
Josipovic denied that he had explicitly supported a third
entity in BiH, emphasizing that he would honor any compromise
agreed to by all three constituent peoples.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Josipovic's election should boost Croatia's
prospects in the two key areas that he outlined as his
foreign policy priorities. First, Josipovic's strong record
of support for the ICTY process will add weight and gravitas
to GoC efforts to resolve the concerns among a small number
of EU states regarding Croatian cooperation with the Court.
Josipovic's strong stance against corruption and his own
clean reputation should also be an added boost to the
anti-corruption efforts underway, and further allay EU
concerns on that issue. In regional relations Josipovic, as
the legal expert who worked on the case, will be able to
speak authoritatively on the merits of dropping the Croatian
ICJ genocide case against Serbia, under the right
circumstances. Additionally, he could provide the GoC with
cover should it be needed on the Arbitration Agreement with
Slovenia. Josipovic, with a reputation as an international
scholar who strongly supports human rights, is less likely to
provoke negative reactions among non-Croatian audiences in
the region, who might have found a staunchly nationalist
Croatian president a more difficult interlocutor. END
COMMENT.
FOLEY

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