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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ZAGREB1660
2003-07-23 15:31:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

POLITICS, POLITICS: AMBASSADOR'S INITIAL CALL ON

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  EU  HR  NATO 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 001660 

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SCE (NARDI)
USNATO FOR DEHART AND MOELLER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV EU HR NATO NATO
SUBJECT: POLITICS, POLITICS: AMBASSADOR'S INITIAL CALL ON
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER TOMCIC


Classified By: Ambassador Ralph Frank for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)

Summary
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001660

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SCE (NARDI)
USNATO FOR DEHART AND MOELLER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2013
TAGS: PREL PGOV EU HR NATO NATO
SUBJECT: POLITICS, POLITICS: AMBASSADOR'S INITIAL CALL ON
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER TOMCIC


Classified By: Ambassador Ralph Frank for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)

Summary
--------------


1. (C) The opposition-leading HDZ party will remain strong
after parliamentary elections this November, but it will not
be able to form a government; Croatia's next coalition
government will be largely similar to the current lineup of
parties, Parliament Speaker Zlatko Tomcic confidently
predicted during his first meeting with the Ambassador.
Tomcic declared that, right up until the beginning of the
formal campaign period, the ruling coalition will remain
focused on driving forward with Croatia's top policy
priorities: integration into the EU and NATO. The Ambassador
applauded the coalition's consensus on key goals and
reaffirmed U.S. support for Croatia's eventual accession into
Euro-Atlantic institutions. There is strong agreement within
the international community that Croatia must continue to
make progress on reform; concrete achievements in key areas
will help Croatia's progress toward both NATO and the EU.
End Summary.

Tomcic: Looking Forward to Close Relationship
--------------


2. (C) On July 22, the Ambassador paid his initial call on
Parliament (Sabor) Speaker Zlatko Tomcic. Tomcic was eager
to establish a close working relationship with the Ambassador
similar to the one he enjoyed with former Ambassador Rossin.
Despite the formal elegance of the Sabor's reception rooms,
Tomcic was open and informal about political challenges
facing the coalition and his Croatian Peasants' Party (HSS).
He apologized for not being able to meet with the Ambassador
in the first days following his arrival in Croatia,
explaining that official visits by two heads of state (Israel
and Turkey) and the press of business now before the
parliament relating to EU accession made scheduling difficult.

Tomcic: We're Focused on EU/NATO Accession
--------------


3. (C) Tomcic declared that both the Government and the
Parliament's majority are in full agreement on Croatia's top
policy priorities: integration into the EU and NATO.
Parliament passed legislation on defense reform and a law to
restructure Croatia's intelligence services to support the
Government's bid for NATO membership. The process of
bringing Croatia's legislation into line with EU standards is
an intense, ongoing process, but the parliament's unanimous
declaration in September 2002 supporting Croatia's membership
application demonstrated Croatia's commitment, said Tomcic.
He complained bitterly about the opposition's "destructive,
selfish" actions in the last two months to boycott voting in
the Sabor for political reasons. Tomcic said that he is
certain that the EU and NATO will judge Croatia's suitability
for membership not only by formal criteria, but also by the
behavior of the political opposition. Fortunately, Tomcic
pointed out, the government enjoys an extraordinary level of
public support for its accession goals.


4. (C) Tomcic said that much of the work the parliament is
doing to help Croatia progress towards the EU and NATO goes
on behind the scenes, particularly its work to reach out to
other parliaments in the region. Croatia knows it cannot
progress in a vacuum: a stable and prosperous Croatia can
only exist in a stable and prosperous region. Tomcic said
that, since Croatia may be several steps ahead of some states
in the region, it can serve as an example of how to move
forward.

Ambassador: Croatia Has Lots Of Work To Do
--------------


5. (C) The Ambassador welcomed Tomcic's commitment to EU and
NATO membership and said that the U.S. remains committed to
helping Croatia achieve these goals. He hailed the broad
support for these goals among Croatia's political leaders,
but explained that there is also broad consensus within the
international community that Croatia has important reform
work still to achieve. The international community agrees
that for EU and NATO accession, Croatia must make concrete
progress on key issues, including refugee return, judicial
reform, ICTY cooperation and regional relations. U.S.
assistance programs are directed toward helping Croatia
achieve these goals. Tomcic expressed appreciation for the
Ambassador's support and also for the significant commitment
of U.S. assistance to Croatia since the change in government
in January 2000.

Privatization: HSS Pressing For Changes to Law


-------------- -


6. (C) Responding to the Ambassador's question about the
politically sensitive issue of privatization, Tomcic claimed
that the disparity between his party's view and that of PM
Racan's SDP has been exaggerated by Croatia's irresponsible
media. Under the Tudjman regime, the privatization process
was an opportunity for "their people" to get rich by taking
public property. While the current government has done much
better, Tomcic expressed regret that it has not made as much
progress as the public had hoped. Not a single large-scale
privatization has taken place without "incident," Tomcic
complained. Tomcic said that the SDP and the HSS have now
agreed on a way forward (according to an HSS model), and that
a new law on privatization would be presented to parliament
in September. Tomcic brought up the recent privatization of
25 percent of INA, Croatia's state-owned energy company, and
declared that he is convinced that this process was "very
correct," and that there would be no "dirty laundry"
discovered, despite what might be alleged in the press.

Sabor to Work Overtime to Keep Election Campaign Short
-------------- --------------


7. (C) The Ambassador steered the conversation toward
electoral politics, and asked how the parliament's work would
be affected by the campaign. Tomcic said that an election
date in late November had been agreed to with key coalition
partners, but that would not stop him from keeping the
parliament at work. He told the Ambassador that he had
already announced an extraordinary session from September 9 -
15, which means that the Sabor will be in session
continuously until the middle of October, focused almost
entirely on the EU accession agenda. Tomcic expressed hope
that the official campaign period will be kept as short as
possible in order to keep conflicts between parties to a
minimum and also to keep the costs of campaigning -- which
are by law covered primarily by the state budget -- as low as
possible.

Election Prediction: Return of Our Coalition
--------------


8. (C) Tomcic predicted that the opposition HDZ would be the
leading vote-getter in the next election, but was confident
that it would not be able to attract enough support from
other parties to form a government. The SDP would fare well,
but would get "slightly fewer" seats in the next parliament.
He expected his own HSS to do slightly better than the 16
seats (about ten percent of the total) it holds in the
current Sabor, but the Croatian People's Party (HNS) would
also see a sharp improvement.


9. (C) Tomcic said that, since the SDP, HSS and HNS will
probably not have quite enough seats to form an absolute
majority, the coalition will have to rely on those MPs which
will fall outside of the two "blocs." Tomcic said he expects
that the next Sabor will have as many as 15 MPs from smaller
or regional parties, fully eight MPs representing ethnic
minorities and perhaps four who represent Croatians abroad.
The most complex part of forming the next government will be
the process of bringing smaller parties into the coalition.
Nevertheless, Tomcic is confident that there will be "no
great changes" between the next coalition government and the
current lineup of parties. (Note: Uncertainty about which
parties would form the next government has usually centered
on the possibility that Tomcic's HSS would break with the
current coalition and go with the HDZ -- a prospect which
looks increasingly implausible with each passing week. End
Note.)

Next Government Must Have Stronger Coalition Agreement
-------------- --------------


10. (C) Tomcic said he believes Croatia's democracy has
developed far enough to "allow the luxury" of waiting to form
coalitions until after elections. The HSS will then advocate
hammering out a strong national-level policy program in order
to create conditions where disagreements over policy no
longer disrupt the work of the government. Such a program
would mean that ICTY cooperation would not be an issue for
debate, but an obligation of the government. The same should
hold true for issues relating to return of refugees and for
working to improve relations with Serbia and Montenegro.


11. (C) The Ambassador praised Tomcic's leadership in the
parliament and expressed his eagerness to continue a regular,
private dialogue. Tomcic readily accepted and proposed that
the two meet again, more informally, toward the end of
August, before the Sabor next convenes.


Comment
--------------


12. (C) Tomcic was on-message and worked hard to make a good
impression; he clearly recognizes how important good
relations with the U.S. are to achieving Croatia's goals. A
cagey, cautious politician, for Tomcic to predict a
successful outcome of the next election with such confidence
so far in advance is significant, even if his forecast
largely represents the current conventional wisdom.
FRANK
NNNN