Vol 1, No 21
15 November 1999
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
News Review for Croatia
All the important news from Croatia
since 6 November 1999
An urgent session of the Presidential Council took place on Friday, with only one topic on the agenda: the health of President Franjo Tudjman, which further deteriorated on Thursday, according to the reports from his medical team. President Tudjman was hospitalized on 1 November for urgent colon surgery.
Ivica Ropus, the spokesperson of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), stated that the "elections will most probably not be postponed" but will take place as scheduled, on 22 December. The session of the HDZ's Main Board and Election Headquarters, however, scheduled for 20 November, might be postponed for seven days. Asked whether President Franjo Tudjman was able to perform his duties as a head of state, the Chief-of-Staff of the President's Office, Ivica Kostovic, said that only the medical team was allowed to release information regarding the President's condition.
The Sabor's House of Representatives was not dissolved on Friday afternoon, as expected, since the ruling HDZ withdrew its proposal for the dissolution due the deterioration of President Tudjman's health that occurred on Thursday. The mandate of the current composition of the Lower House expires on 27 November, according to the Constitution. At the last session, the House adopted an interim budget for the first three months of the next year.
Prime Minister Zlatko Matesa visited Vienna and held talks with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima and Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schussel on Wednesday and Thursday. Relations between Croatia and the EU, upcoming parliamentary elections, bilateral relations between Austria and Croatia as well as the Pact on Stability for Southeastern Europe were on the agenda. Matesa also participated in the Fifth International Financial and Economic Forum that took place in Vienna, which gathered more than 1,000 participants from all European countries and international financial institutions. At the Forum, Minister Schussel stated that Croatia does have certain problems with democracy, freedom of the media and the return of refugees but pointed out it did not deserve to be placed in the same category as Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Austrian Foreign Minister said this categorisation was unfair and represented a weakness in the EU enlargement policy.
The representatives of six opposition parties accepted an invitation to visit the European Commission and NATO headquarters in Brussels on 24 and 25 November, Opposition Six co-ordinator Ivan Jakovcic confirmed on Friday. The Opposition Six is expected to meet the EU commissioner for foreign affairs, Chris Patten, and possibly the president of the Commission, Romano Prodi. This decision was reached after some members of the Opposition Six - in particular, the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) and Social-Democratic Party (SDP) - expressed doubts whether such a visit would be good for them during the opposition campaign.
The official rate of unemployment in September was 19.6 per cent, the State Institute for Statistics announced.
Minister of Justice Zvonimir Separovic sent a letter to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte, proposing that an independent judicial body decide on the dispute between Croatia and the ICTY on jurisdiction over crimes committed during military operations carried out by the "Storm" and "Flash" units in 1995. Meanwhile, Chief Prosecutor Del Ponte reported Croatia to the UN Security Council for its lack of co-operation with the Tribunal. So far, there have been no comments from the ICTY about Separovic's proposal.
The SDP of Croatia was accepted on Tuesday in Paris as a full member of the Socialist International.
The new spokesperson for the SDP, one of Croatia's most popular TV anchors, Tihomir Ladisic, announced at a press conference that SDP and HSLS completed the elaboration of their election programmes. An agreement on joint candidates was also reached, including the quota requiring that one-third of candidates be female. The programme and the lists will be made public when elections are officially called for, stated Ladisic, who revealed only the name of the programme: "A New Direction for Croatia's Politics." Ladisic also announced that profits from a tour of two of Croatia's most popular pop groups, Parni valjak and Gibonni, will go to the SDP-HSLS election campaign.
The Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS) announced that it will introduce a so-called public contract with voters, which will include a list of promises they plan to fulfill if they come to power after the elections.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Croatia on Thursday and Friday. It is the third visit by leading Hungarian politicians to Croatia in the last two months. Prime Minister Orban and his Croatian counterpart, Zlatko Matesa, opened the new electricity transfer system that was built jointly by Croatian and Hungarian experts.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Commissioner for Minorities, Max van den Stoel, visited Vukovar and talked with local officials about the current situation in that region. The debate on the implementation of the Law on Abolition was the hot topic of discussion.
Croatia raised serious complaints against the last report of Jiri Dienstbier, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and FRY, accusing him of "exposing only the negative side of the problem, avoiding to state positive examples of the protection of human rights in the country."
The spokesperson of the OSCE Mission to Croatia, Peter Palmer, stated at a press conference that the OSCE is "mainly satisfied" with the new Croatian electoral law, especially since many of the OSCE's suggestions have been accepted. However, the main shortcoming is the representation of national minorities, which conflicts with the Constitutional Law on Minorities from 1991 that has been suspended by the Parliament in the meantime. Although the government had promised to revise the decision by the end of October, Palmer complained that it had not been done.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) made public the findings from its survey on the level of corruption in 20 countries in transition. According to that report, Croatia is the least corrupt of the 20 countries named in the report if the amount of money that firms spend per year for bribes is taken into account. However, this result is very different from the recent findings of Transparency International, which ranked Croatia a very low 77 out of 99 countries included in the survey.
Sasa Cvijetic, 12 November 1999
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