The Government adopted the Declaration on Co-operation between Croatia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), by which Croatia commits itself to closely co-operate with The Hague Tribunal. The Declaration also proposed that certain investigations be conducted jointly and that Croatian citizens sentenced by the ICTY serve their prison sentences in Croatia or some neighbouring country. Croatia also commits to providing relevant documents from its archives to the ICTY.
The contents of the Declaration, which was presented on Friday to the Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granić, provoked very hefty reactions on the side of the opposition Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ), the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) and war veterans' associations. They accused the Government of "demonising the Patriotic War." The head of one of these associations, Branko Borković, called the Declaration a "national betrayal," and threatened that the veterans would "disempower all those who are against Croatian national interests and who destroy Croatia." "We are not disarmed and we will defend our rights using all means," he added.
The representatives of the war veterans' associations held a rally in front of the Parliament during Granić's presentation, demanding that the Parliament not adopt this Declaration. More than 500 people linked themselves with chains. "We do not want improvements in relations with the ICTY, and we do not need European integration," they pronounced. "If the Declaration is adopted as is, we will have to start another war for Croatia," their representative, Branko Borković, said at the press conference after the Parliament's session.
Mato Arlović, head of the ruling Social Democratic Party's (SDP) parliamentary faction, suggested that all parliamentary factions get together and propose their amendments to the Declaration and reach consensus on this issue. However, this proved not to be feasible, and the Declaration was eventually adopted by a majority of votes. The MPs from the Croation Democratic Union (HDZ) left the Parliament hall during the voting.
Two days before this session of Parliament, the Government responded positively to the ICTY's request to conduct investigations in the area of Gospić into alleged mass murders of Serb civilians during the war. ICTY experts stated that they would be looking to confirm allegations of the existence of several mass graves in the Gospić area.
President of the Serb People's Party (SNS) Milan Đukić claimed at the press conference that the Croatian Government was informed about these crimes in 1991 but failed to initiate any investigation. Đukić said that he personally informed the President, Parliament and Government about the murder of 63 people of Serb nationality in 1991. The members of the Government from that time denied this allegation.
Another in a series of urgent meetings between President Stipe Mesić, Prime Minister Ivica Račan and Parliament Speaker Zlatko Tomčić was held last week to discuss changes in the organisation of the secret services. Although there was no statement made after the talks, the media speculated that the recently appointed head of the Croatian Intelligence Service (HIS), Ozren Žunec, submitted his resignation to President Mesić due to disagreements with the head of another secret service (Office for National Security - UNS), Tomislav Karamarko. This speculation was neither denied nor confirmed.
The group of legal experts appointed last month by President Mesić to propose changes to the Constitution delivered its report and made it public on Monday. The report was then forwarded by President Mesić to Prime Minister Račan and Speaker of the Parliament Tomčić. The expert group proposed the redistribution of powers in favour of Parliament and Government without fully disempowering the President. The President would still remain in charge of commanding the army, supervising the secret services and would have influence on foreign affairs. The upper house of Parliament (House of Counties) would be eradicated.
Croatia was admitted as an observer to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, announced Assembly Chairman Javier Ruperez during his visit to Zagreb last week.
Obrad Kosovac, editor-in-chief of Croatian Television (HTV), was dismissed (in a second attempt) from his post at a recent session of the Council of Croatian Radio and Television (HRT). Neda Ritz was appointed to the post for an interim period until a replacement is selected.
Former Chief of Staff of the Croatian Army and Minister of Defence Pavao Miljavac left the HDZ and joined the Democratic Centre party (DC). The Democratic Centre will thus be able to establish its parliamentary factions in both houses of Parliament.
President Stipe Mesić met officially for the first time with the Archbishop of Zagreb, Josip Bozanić. Mesić was the third high state official (after Prime Minister Račan and Parliament Speaker Tomčić) to hold official talks with Archbishop Bozanić in the last couple of weeks.
The delegation of the Croatian Government, led by Vice Prime Minister Željka Antunović, and the representatives of so-called "Commission Article 11," which consists of heads of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) missions to Croatia and six ambassadors accredited in Zagreb, met in Benkovac with the representatives of local authorities and refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina. They discussed the return of Croatian citizens of Serb nationality and Bosnian Croats who are currently living in Croatia to their homes. Antunović stated that "no one will be left to live on the streets" but also that "all citizens of Serb nationality have the right to claim their private property."
The co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, Bodo Hombach, visited Zagreb and discussed with Croatian authorities the implementation of projects that were approved during the recent donors conference in Brussels. "We don't need project plans any more; we need construction sites," Mr Hombach and President Mesić agreed.
Deputy Minister of Economy Neven Mimica stated that Croatia would not be admitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on 3 May as expected, due to yet another conflict between the EU and the US on trade concessions, which have been a long-standing obstacle to Croatia's admission. A day later, Minister of Economy Goranko Fižulić stated at a meeting of business managers and entrepreneurs that Croatia would be admitted "in May."
Saša Cvijetić, 15 April 2000
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