Multimillion dollar Enron "bribe" revisited
Following a visit promoting Croatian investment opportunities to financiers in Ireland and the United Kingdom, Minister of the Economy Goranko Fižulić flew to Houston on Thursday to join First Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granić for meetings with Enron executives.
The talks focused on revising the Jerovec power plant deal, which has been a hot topic in economic news this week following revelations in Globus that late president Franjo Tuđman inked an "exceptionally one-sided" deal with Enron that gave the US oil giant "payment and privileges far in excess of European standards."
Globus and other media outlets allege that Tuđman signed the deal in return for Enron agreeing to pressure US President Bill Clinton into a meeting with his Croatian counterpart, as well as for "facilitating" Croatian membership in NATO, the WTO and the European Union.
Local commentators claim the deal amounted to a USD 100 million "bribe" to Enron.
In Dublin and London, Fižulić chased prospective international investors with presentations on the renewed move toward privatization. The minister spoke broadly about the upcoming bidding process for Croatia Osiguranje, the state owned insurance company, and domestic oil giant INA, which is already said to have attracted interest from Hungary's MOL.
Prior to the trips, Fižulić said Croatia is asking for an immediate special session of the World Trade Organization Council in order to seek admission prior to the Council's upcoming 17 July meeting. (Globus, Večernji list, Jutarnji List )
Ahmići case still unresolved
In a televised interview last Sunday 4 May, President Stipe Mesić said that those responsible for the Ahmići massacre should be tried in either Bosnia-Hercegovina, where the crime occurred, or in the Hague, adding that those who helped cover it up would be tried in Croatia. Croats responsible for the massacre, the president said, were citizens of BiH.
The massacre of 103 Bosnian Muslims at Ahmići, including women and children, has lately been a hot issue in Croatia following revelations that the former government provided the alleged perpetrators with new identities and sheltered them from prosecution, whlie some media outlets claim the current government allowed the four principal purpetrators to slip away.
Fresh from his first visit to the Hague, Justice Minister Stjepan Ivanišević blamed the media early this week for the escape of the four alleged perpetrators, saying "as far as I know, we have lost trace of them.
During one period, we had a relatively reliable indicator of their whereabouts, despite the fact that they had false identities. ... As we were preparing for the arrest, the information leaked. In a normal country, that, the disclosing of confidential state information, would be a criminal act."
Ivanišević's statement contradicts assertions in a Nacional investigative report two weeks ago, that claimed the government not only knew exactly where the four men were in hiding, but added that Jutarnji list reporters told police and government officials they were about to make the case public. (HRT, Jutarnji list, Večernji list, Nacional)
Mesić, Kučan meet
President Mesić met with his Slovene counterpart Milan Kučan in Zagreb Tuesday, where the two discussed "several outstanding issues" that the Croatian leader described as "minor ones" that "do not have to present a problem."
Few details of the meeting between the two heads of state were made public, but Zagreb's rumour mill claims the talks focused on the return of Croatian funds held by Slovene banks since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
The two men did say that they had discussed French President Jaques Chirac's recent call for a summit meeting of former Yugoslav states. Kučan said "we agreed that this was an interesting idea if it could contribute to drawing countries such as Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina closer to European associations, and if it discussed Montenegro."
Prior to the meeting between Kučan and Mesić, Prime Minister Ivica Račan met with Slovene Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel in another closed-door session. (Jutarnji list, HRT, HINA)
Refugee agreement in the offing?
Bratislava Morina, the Serbian regime's top refugee official, issued a joint statement with UNHCR officials in Belgrade Monday urging Croatian Serb refugees to register to return home. Morina noted that of more than 350,000 Serb refugees in rump Yugoslavia, fewer than 11,000 have returned to Croatia or Bosnia-Hercegovina.
As if on cue, Serbian and Croatian refugee organizations in Zagreb issued a joint statement the next day in which they pledged to work together to help solve issues raised by refugee returns.
The three groups –the Association of Croatian Immigrants and Settlers, which represents Croat refugees from BiH, and the political bodies of the the Serb National Council and Serb Democratic Forum– also called on the European Union and the United States, among other donor countries, to give "maximum assistance" to the return process.
Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Paro called the statement "one of the most beautiful documents of the last ten years," and noted it was the first such statement issued without mediation by international bodies, HINA reported.
The statement was explicitly geared toward the Croatian government and Bosnia's central government, along with the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska, but did not specifically address Croatian Serbs in exile in Serbia.
Local commentators speculated that the agreement between the three lobby groups could provide the government with political backing to accelerate the process of refugee returns. (HINA, HRT, Jutarnji list, Večernji list)
Mesić meets Romanian counterpart
Mesić met in Zagreb Thursday with his Romanian counterpart, Emil Constantinescu, where the two men discussed their countries' paths toward European integration, the re-opening of the Danube to commercial traffic, and the construction of an oil pipeline linking the Caspian, Adriatic and Black seas.
"All countries gravitating towards the Danube are certainly interested, and Romania the most. Croatia is especially interested on account of Vukovar, because by opening the Vukovar port Croatia will open a whole new space for economic progress," HINA quoted Mesić as saying.
The two sides also discussed means of redressing the current trade imbalance between them by expanding trade relations, and the two heads of states bestowed each other with shiny new medals. (HRT, HINA, Jutarnji list)
The Canadian Embassy in Zagreb this week handed over a cheque for more than CAD 40,000 [USD 27,000] to benefit five non-governmental organizations in Croatia. Canadian ambassador Don Smith noted that the funds were earmarked to promote mine-clearing, ethnic tolerance and the development of democracy in Croatia.
In an initiative organized by the American-run National Democratic Institute in Zagreb, a delegation of female parliamentarians recently returned from a study tour of Ottawa, Canada's capital, where they discussed minority rights, the status of women and multiculturalism with a variety of Canadian parliamentarians, ministers and governmental officials. The delegation included the Social Democrats' Sonja Kapitanović (SDP), Croatia's youngest member of parliament. (HINA, HRT, interviews)
Tuđman's son starts rag
Miroslav Tuđman, former chief of the now gasping Croatian Intelligence Service (HIS) and eldest son of the late Croatian president, unveiled the first issue of his latest adventure in the publication industry: the magazine National Security and the Future (Nacionalna sigurnost i budućnost).
Tuđman will serve as the magazine's editor and publisher, and has assembled an editorial team that includes retired Croatian generals and former colleagues from the HIS.
Among the feature articles in the first edition: an examination of American intelligence activities in the former Yugoslavia from 1948 to 1991. No word yet on whether the magazine will host articles based on files Tuđman allegedly spirited out of his father's presidential archives...(HINA)
Tourism bookings up
While the prospect of civil war in Serbia or Montenegro could still bedevil efforts to revive the coastal tourist industry, hotel bookings are up between 30 and 40 percent over last year, while the nation's capital is working toward becoming more tourist friendly with the introduction of a new "Welcome Card" that would entitle toursits to use the city's transit system and provide them with local discounts. (HINA, HRT)
NAMA protests continue
While they forwent their traditional parade down Vlaška street, dozens of unpaid workers from the state-owned NAMA department store occupied the Ministry of Economics Wednesday. It was the latest in a series of protests by NAMA workers, nearly all 2000 of whom have gone unpaid for several months as NAMA shelves in the cash-strapped firm's stores sit largely empty. (HRT)
22 Croats pull 26 medals at Euro Special Olympics
Twenty two athletes representing Croatia at the European Special Olympic games in the Dutch city of Groeningen harvested an impressive 26 medals, including 10 golds. Some 25000 mentally and physically challenged men and women competed in the games. The strong Croatian showing was heralded by rights groups as opening the door to broader acceptance of the disabled in Croatian society. (HINA, Jutarnji list)
Patrick FitzPatrick, 9 June 2000
Novi list - print edition
Jutarnji list - print edition
Globus - print edition