President Mesić, Prime Minister Račan and Speaker of the Parliament Zlatko Tomčić held another urgent meeting to discuss speculations in the media (mainly in the weekly Nacional) that President Mesić is ready to dismiss Prime Minister Račan if Račan insists on disempowering Mesić through constitutional changes. Although all three of them stated after the talks that there was no conflict between them, they did not hide what the main points of disagreement were: the President's command of the Army and appointment of key officials of the secret services.
On Friday, President Mesić received the group of legal experts whom he appointed to work on elaboration of changes to the Constitution. They presented him with the proposal they have completed, which will be sent to Prime Minister Račan and Speaker Tomčić next Monday. The proposal envisages reduction of powers of the President (albeit not full) and an increase in powers of the Parliament, said the commission's chairman, Prof Veljko Mratović.
The Government's Council for Co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) devised a new strategy for Croatia's relations with the Tribunal. The Council's document proposes that the trials for war crimes be organised in Croatia and that those sentenced by the Tribunal serve their time in prison in Croatia. This document served as the basis for talks between Chief Prosecutor of ICTY Carla Del Ponte and high Croatian state officials in Zagreb on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Prosecutor Del Ponte met with President Mesić, Prime Minister Račan and Minister of Justice Stjepan Ivanišević. She expressed her satisfaction with the readiness of Croatian authorities to co-operate with the Tribunal. She declined to reveal the details of the talks, but journalists speculated that Del Ponte asked Croatian authorities to provide information to the ICTY on crimes allegedly committed after the operations "Flash" and "Storm" in 1995 and in particular about the personal responsibility of generals Gotovina, Čermak, Norac and Korade. Del Ponte said that she welcomed Croatia's decision to try the persons responsible for war crimes but that it would not prevent the ICTY from continuing to pursue those Croats that are suspected of committing these crimes. "The Croats will have to accept the fact that some of their leaders were responsible for war crimes," Del Ponte stressed.
The Administrative Court rejected the complaint lodged by former President of Zagreb City Assembly Zlatko Canjuga against the Government's decision to dismiss that Assembly, which has thus now become final. Consequently, the Government officially decided that the elections in Zagreb (as well as in Velika Gorica) will take place on 7 May.
The Government appointed its governors for Samobor, Otočac, Ivanić Grad and Vrbovec, where the municipal or city assemblies were dismissed according to a similar pattern as in Zagreb. The only case where this scenario was not successful was the City Council of Koprivnica, where members of the HSLS (Croatian Social-Liberal Party) and the SDP (Social Democratic Party) resigned but were replaced by candidates of other coalition parties that were on joint electoral lists for that council. Dorica Nikolić, general secretary of the HSLS, protested against such a decision being made by the deputy minister of justice, claiming that it is only HSLS and SDP that can decide whether these councillors should be replaced and, if so, by whom. Nikolić also asked Deputy Minister of Justice Teodor Antić (from HSLS) to resign.
Six parties decided to run together in the Zagreb elections: HSLS, SDP, LS (Liberal Party), HSS (Croatian Peasants' Party), ASH (Action of Social Democrats of Croatia) and HSU (Croatian Party of Pensioners). According to this agreement, the SDP will have six candidates, the HSLS three and all other parties together also three. The HNS (Croatian People's Party) opted to run independently in all 12 constituencies.
A new political party was established last Sunday: the Democratic Centre (DC). Mate Granić (former foreign minister and HDZ's presidential candidate) was elected as the party's president, and Vesna Škare-Ožbolt (former deputy chief-of-staff of the President's Office and vice-president of the HDZ) as vice-president. The party announced that it would attempt to attract democratically oriented and pro-Europe voters of the centre.
Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Aleksandar Domitrov visited Zagreb two days before President Mesić's visit to Skopje. Mesić met there with Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, Speaker of Parliament (Sobranje) Savo Klimovski, Prime Minister Ljupčo Georgijevski and former President Kiro Gligorov. Both sides expressed the need for improvement in economic relations, while political relations were assessed as "excellent and very friendly." Mesić also met with the last prime minister of former Yugoslavia, Ante Marković, who is now economic advisor to the Macedonian Government.
The President's advisor on internal affairs, Igor Dekanić, announced that President Mesić plans to establish a so-called Presidential Council, as an advisory body. The Council would have only a few permanent members, while other prominent experts on various political and economic issues would be included in the work of the Council depending on the particular problem at hand.
President Mesić held talks with President of the Liberal Union of Montenegro Slavko Perović. They discussed the explosive situation in that republic of FR Yugoslavia and possibilities of co-operation between Croatia and Montenegro.
Foreign Minister Tonino Picula visited Rome, where he met with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini and the Vatican's secretary for relations with other countries, Jean Louis Tauran. This visit was in preparation for Prime Minister Račan's visit, to take place on 8 May.
More than 1500 workers of two agricultural concerns, Vrbovec and Belje, protested in front of the Parliament and Government buildings on Wednesday, demanding their salaries, which they have not received since December. After unsuccessful talks with Deputy Prime Minister Slavko Linić, Vrbovec workers blocked all roads around the town of Vrbovec and thereby also the traffic between Zagreb and the Hungarian-Croatian border. The blockade will last until they have received their wages, the workers claimed.
Russian Minister of Economy Andrej Georgijevič Šapovaljanc visited Zagreb and discussed with Croatian officials the possibilities of improving economic co-operation between the two countries, mainly regarding supply of Russian gas and oil. In return, Croatia would supply Russia with pharmaceuticals. The payment of Russia's USD 500 million debt to Croatia was also discussed.
Mirjana Ferić-Vac, head of the Croatian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, was elected vice-president of that Assembly.
Istarska banka was de-blocked after the Government decided to allocate funds for restructuring of the banking system. Ivan Jakovčić, president of the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS), expressed his satisfaction with that decision. At the same time, the local branch of the HSLS froze its activities in the co-ordinating body of six ruling parties, until the IDS clarifies its position on Istria's request for autonomy within Croatia.
Saša Cvijetić, 8 April 2000
- Previous news reviews for Croatia
- Archive of Saša Cvijetić's articles on Croatia
- Return to CER front page
Links to further information on Croatia:
HINA - Croatian Information and News Agency
HRT - Croatian Radio and Television News
News compiled by the HIC - Croatian Information Centre
Croatia Weekly, published by the HIKZ - Croatian Institute for Culture and Information
HIDRA - Croatian Information and Documentation Referral Agency
Croatian Government Bulletin
News released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Vlast.net - E-zine on Croatian politics
Večernji list daily
Slobodna Dalmacija daily
Feral Tribune weekly
Voice of America in Croatian
Real Audio recording of the radio programme Weekreport