C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 002059
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR MARR KTIA HR
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR AND CROATIAN PRESIDENT MESIC DISCUSS
MILITARY MOU, GOTOVINA, NATO, PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
REF: A. ZAGREB 02002
B. ZAGREB 02044
Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Ralph Frank; Reasons 1.4 (b) an
1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador asked Croatian President
Stjepan Mesic to tone down the anti-U.S. rhetoric that has
been a major element of his reelection strategy thus far.
Mesic and the Ambassador also discussed the impact of
Croatia's NATO accession on presidential authority over the
armed forces; the Gotovina case; campaign strategy; and the
case of a journalist, connected with a Mesic associate, who
was allegedly interrogated by the security services.
2. (C) Croatian President Stjepan Mesic invited the
Ambassador via an intermediary to dinner November 30 to
discuss several outstanding issues. There was no publicity.
Also present were Mesic's chief of cabinet Ambassador Davor
Bozinovic, and informal advisors Zarko Kraljevic and Dr.
Mladen Vedris (former Deputy Prime Minister). Mesic was
cordial and relaxed; the meeting lasted three hours.
U.S. ) Croatian MOU on Military Exercises
3. (C) The Ambassador told Mesic that he was concerned about
the level of rhetoric Mesic and others had generated
regarding the routine GOC-EUCOM MOU on military exercises
signed last summer (ref A); Mesic's statements were
provocative, and risked fanning anti-NATO and anti-U.S.
flames; the U.S. should not become an issue in the upcoming
presidential campaign, and given Mesic,s giant lead in the
polls, it is completely unnecessary to "run against" the US.
The Ambassador explained the substance of the MOU to Mesic,
emphasized that we have similar agreements with all PfP
countries, and noted that it does not obligate the GOC to do
anything it does not want to do; it merely provides a
framework for issues that must be discussed in preparation
for military exercises.
4. (C) Mesic replied that his concern was the internal
consultation process within the GOC, skirting the issue of
his provocative statements.
Gotovina Stops the Conversation
5. (C) Mesic asked the Ambassador's view on whether the EU
would give Croatia a start date for accession negotiations at
its meeting on December 17. The Ambassador replied that many
EU countries shared the U.S. view that full cooperation with
ICTY required the GOC to get PIFWC Ante Gotovina arrested and
to The Hague. Without full cooperation, it was doubtful
those EU states would support setting a date. Mesic and
colleagues appeared surprised at this remark; Mesic said he
believed that the GOC had done all it could on the Gotovina
issues, and he was clearly not in the country at this point.
The Ambassador replied that establishing Gotovina's location
outside Croatia did not meet the USG test for Croatia's ICTY
cooperation -- Gotovina's presence in The Hague is the
benchmark; many EU countries feel the same way. It is
important that the GOC understand the seriousness of the
international community on this issue.
NATO Accession Leads to Loss of Presidential Authority
6. (C) Mesic noted that he was concerned about a loss of
presidential authority as Croatia continues the military
modernization and NATO accession process. He cited the
Croatian Navy's transition into a Coast Guard, and therefore
no longer part of a national security organization, as a
degradation of presidential authority. Likewise, the Air
Force's evolution into an organization responsible for
firefighting and transport is another example of a reduction
of his defense responsibilities.
Reelection Campaign Strategy
7. (C) Mesic said he was pursuing an aggressive presidential
campaign not because he was worried about losing (the latest
polls give him three times the percentage of his nearest
challenger), but because he wants to have the biggest
possible electoral mandate to help him counter the HDZ
government in his term, which he believes is pursuing
Puljiz Case Not Freedom of the Press Issue
8. (C) Mesic also noted that the Puljiz case (ref B) was not
really an issue of freedom of the press, but rather the
government using Puljiz as a way to collect information on
Mesic. Allegedly, the intel services attempted to enlist
Puljiz's ongoing cooperation, not because Puljiz was a
journalist, but because she had a personal relationship with
then presidential advisor, and now local indictee and subject
of an EU travel ban, Zeljko Bagic.
9. (C) Comment: Mesic's invitation to dinner/face-to-face
discussion of contentious issues reflects his concern for
U.S. views and his desire to make his views clearly known to
us. As last president of Yugoslavia, he reflects more than a
passing nostalgia for the predictability of the socialist and
10. (C) Comment, cont'd: Mesic also is a powerful moral
tiller for Croatia's move toward necessary changes in
preparation for Euro-Atlantic integration. His "apology" for
illegal acts committed against Serbs in the Balkan war is his
most noteworthy example, but he also has been on the "right"
side with respect to Croatia's role in World War II
atrocities, and the offensive nature of occasional emergence
of Ustashe/Nazi symbols. Most recently he has been a strong
proponent of Croatian cooperation with ICTY.