Mesić opens door to Kosovar and Montenegrin independence?
On a two-day visit to Tirana last weekend, President Stipe Mesić noted that Kosovo "had chosen its own path toward Europe," adding that regardless of formal ties with Serbia, "Kosovo and Montenegro have freely decided to become closer with Europe."
The issue of regional stability and the two nations' complimentary foreign policy goals dominated talks between Mesić and his Albanian counterpart, Rexhep Mejdani.
"Albania has the same strategic aims as Croatia," Mesić said, "to be admitted to the European Union and NATO. There is, however, a disturbing factor between us, and that is Serbia with Slobodan Milošević at its helm. Due to this situation, Albania and all neighbours of Yugoslavia have great problems."
On French President Jacques Chirac's proposal for a conference of all EU and former Yugoslav nations, Mejdani said the two men agreed that the idea is valuable, provided it also included "all countries bordering with former Yugoslavia."
While policy discussions dominated talks between Mesić and Mejdani, their respective delegations also reached concrete agreements on a variety of issues, including the construction of a motorway from the Ionian Sea to the Italian frontier.
Minister of Public Works Radomir Čačić said that Croatian companies will be welcome to bid on Albanian sections of the highway, while Deputy Foreign Minister Vesna Cvjetković discussed liberalization of visa requirements and other, unspecified measures that would contribute to the strengthening of bilateral ties in projects within the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe.
Both Presidents marked the end of Mesić's visits with statements at a press conference reaffirming their commitment to enhancing bilateral cooperation on their respective quests for NATO and EU membership. Mesić added that he would like to see Croatians of Serb descent return to Croatia as soon as possible, promising them security, equality and employment opportunities in a newly secure Croatia. (Jutarnji list, Večernji list, HRT, HINA)
Croatia in second round of EU expansion?
In an address to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Council of Europe Chairman Lord Russell Johnston said that Croatia had undergone "very big changes" and is now a credible candidate for the second round of EU expansion.
Johnston said the Council had confidence in Mesić and the Račan government, and added that he was impressed with the progress Croatia has made in reaching a new position "in the community of democratic and advanced European nations."
Johnston highlighted the government's recent moves toward improved cooperation with the international community and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), contributions to stability in Bosnia-Hercegovina and a greatly improved international image.
He claimed that Croatia is quickly "catching up" with Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia as credible second round candidates. (Jutarnji list)
Refugee return funding from Stability Pact
At a meeting of the refugee returns steering committee of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe hosted in Zagreb this week, committee head Hans Koschnik said that Croatia would receive "a significant portion" of the EUR 80 million pledged for refugee resettlement.
Donald Kursch, chief deputy coordinator of the Pact, has previously said that encouraging returns was "the most important issue" facing former Yugoslav countries.
Meanwhile, Koschnik was critical of European donor nations, expressing sympathy for Croatian officials who are only now gaining access to funds pledged by the European Commission for 1999.
"We have also agreed to hold meetings on a regular basis to see how we stand with the projects, and to determine whether international cooperation has changed, where it has improved and where it has deteriorated," Koschnik said.Future meetings will be in Brussels in September and Sarajevo in December. (Večernji list, HINA)
Del Ponte "very satisfied"
Although international media paint a slightly more nuanced picture, Croatian media this week reported that Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is now "very satisfied with its cooperation with Croatian authorities."
In the wake of a meeting with President Stipe Mesić Wednesday, del Ponte said that she was pleased to have been granted new access to documents covering Operations Flash and Storm.
During her meeting with Mesić, del Ponte also discussed the investigation into allegations of Serbian war crimes in Dubrovnik, but refused to comment on the investigation at a post-meeting press conference.
Last week, del Ponte's deputy chief prosecutor told Sarajevo media that Croatia was "still not fully cooperating," while del Ponte sang a different tune, noting that the ICTY is now satisfied that "some technical problems" on document transfer have been resolved.
Del Ponte's visit to Zagreb was unannounced and came in the same week that saw her in Kosovo and Montenegro. Following her talks with Mesić, the chief prosecutor flew to Dubrovnik for talks with Minister of Justice Ivanišević, where she was handed documents speaking to Serbian war crimes there.
Mesić: refugee return will democratize Serbia
"The return of Serb refugees to Croatia could influence democratization in Serbia," President Stipe Mesić said Thursday evening at "Osijek in the New Century," an international meeting on the future of Eastern Slavonia.
"Previous Croatian authorities were overloaded by a fear of foreign 'enemies,'" Mesić said, "and so were not fond of the return of Croatian Serbs."
The conference was a joint venture between Osijek mayor Zlatko Kramarić and Jacques Paul Klein, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and was held to examine the local situation following the completion of the UNTAES mandate in Eastern Slavonia and consider further international economic assistance for the region.
The meeting, attended by Mesić, Klein, European Commission Special Envoy to Croatia Per Vinther, and World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development representatives, among other international officials, saw pledges of some EUR 30 million to the region.
Organized crime conference in Dubrovnik
At an internatioanl conference on curbing organized crime in Europe, Prime Minister Ivica Račan said this week that the government was "fully aware" of the problem in Croatia, adding that he saw "action on an international level as very important." (HRT)
Anti-fascism day marked Thursday
Croatia celebrated Anti-Fascism Struggle Day on Thursday with quiet remembrance of the nation's past. President Mesić commemorated the day, which roughly marks the formation of Tito's Partisan movement, by attending a meeting of the League of Anti-Fascist Fighters of Croatia. Mesić said that it was vitally important that Croatia remember that the struggle against fascism - and not the massacre of fascist Croats by Partisan forces at Beliburg - was one of the primary foundations of the Croatian nation.
Patrick FitzPatrick, 24 June 2000
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