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04ZAGREB978 2004-05-27 16:30:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Zagreb
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 000978 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2014

Classified By: Poloff A.F.Godfrey for reasons 1.5 (b,d)

1. (C) In a brief visit to Zagreb on May 26, NATO Secretary
General (SYG) Jaap de Hoop Scheffer "left a message of
encouragement" for Croatia to move forward toward qualifying
for an invitation to join the Alliance by making concrete
progress in NATO's Membership Action Plan. In an outbrief to
NATO Ambassadors, the SYG said he was impressed with the new
government's commitment to continued reforms, but noted with
concern that if President Mesic gets his way, Croatia will
waste scarce defense resources in directions that do not
support accession to NATO. In meetings with the President,
PM, Foreign and Defense Ministers as well as at the
Parliament, the SYG urged full cooperation with the ICTY and
greater efforts to apprehend fugitive Ante Gotovina. The SYG
discussed the security environment in the region with the PM
and was pessimistic about prospects for finding a long-term
solution in Kosovo. End Summary.

A Tour of MAP Countries Before Istanbul


2. (C) On May 26, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer visited Croatia and met with the President, Prime
Minister, Foreign and Defense Ministers and the Speaker of
the Parliament. In a briefing to NATO Ambassadors accredited
to Croatia, the SYG said the Zagreb visit was the first stop
in a trip to all three of NATO's MAP countries. After
visiting Skopje and Tirana, the SYG said he will attend a
meeting of the North Atlantic Council at SFOR headquarters in
Sarajevo. The SYG said he was considering adding a stop in
Belgrade to the trip, but no plans have been made so far.

Croatia Wants a Fast Track To Membership


3. (C) The SYG said that one of the main reasons he
scheduled this pre-Summit trip to the three MAP countries was
to "leave a sign of encouragement" as the Istanbul Summit
approaches. He was impressed with Croatia's declared
commitment to continue the reforms needed to qualify for
membership. The SYG said that PM Sanader was optimistic
about Croatia's chances to enter the Alliance. Sanader said
Croatia has its NATO bid on a "parallel track" with its EU
application; he said that Croatia aspires to "catch the EU
train and arrive in the same car" as Bulgaria and Romania.
Sanader sought advice from the SYG on how to work with the
other MAP countries; whether Croatia can expect to accede to
membership on its own or if its fate is tied to Albania and
Macedonia. The SYG said that candidates will be assessed on
an individual basis, but in the meeting with NATO Ambassadors
pointed out that while NATO and the EU have always talked
about individual assessments, when it comes to enlargement,
"they act in big bangs." The SYG said that none of his
interlocutors expected an invitation for Croatia at Istanbul.

Cooperation On War Crimes


4. (C) The SYG discussed cooperation with ICTY in all of his
meetings with officials in Zagreb, and made this point
particularly clear during his address to the Croatian
parliament. In meetings with the PM and FM, the SYG was told
that Croatia expects ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte's
upcoming report to the UNSC to be consistent with the "full
cooperation" assessment she gave to the European Commission
which led to the EC's positive "avis" on Croatia's EU
membership application. The SYG characterized both the PM
and FM as very optimistic about del Ponte's upcoming report.
Croatia does, however, expect some criticism inasmuch as it
is not yet fully ready to accept war crimes cases from ICTY
for trial by Croatian courts. Sanader told the SYG that he
understands how important the label of "full cooperation" is
to NATO; the SYG said he "got the impression that he is
sincere." During the SYG's outbrief, the Ambassador stated
plainly that the USG will not base its judgment solely on del
Ponte's assessment of Croatia's cooperation; for us it
essential that the GoC apprehend ICTY fugitive Gotovina and
transfer him to ICTY custody. The Ambassador said that the
Croatian government is well aware that we consider Gotovina's
fugitive status as an obstacle to Croatia's progress towards

President Pulling Croatia Off-Track on Defense Reform?



5. (C) The SYG said that he was struck by the difference in
how the government and President view Croatia's priorities
for defense reform. He was briefed in meetings with the
Defense and Foreign Ministers about the ongoing Strategic
Defense Review and about discussions on force restructuring.
He was pleased that the government is working to create a

flexible, modern force with capabilities that NATO can use.
In his meeting with President Mesic, however, the SYG heard
about plans to spend scarce defense resources to refit
Croatia's fighter force, which demonstrates either a
disregard for or a lack of understanding of NATO's
priorities. The SYG said this internal conflict is common in
transition countries, but Sanader and his cabinet will be
challenged to bring the President's archaic vision of the
armed forces around. The structure of Croatia's government
does not help, the SYG continued. A simple question like
"who is the commander-in-chief" prompts a long discussion.
It is still not clear, the SYG said, whether PM Sanader or
President Mesic will occupy the one chair allotted to Croatia
at the EAPC meeting in Istanbul.

Regional Relations -- Concern About Serbia, Kosovo



6. (C) The SYG discussed relations in the region with
Sanader and FM Zuzul at some length. He reported that
Sanader was committed to improving relations with neighbors,
but was concerned about developments in Serbia. Sanader said
that he had extended the policy of allowing citizens of SaM
visa-free travel to Croatia and described ongoing high-level
contacts with government officials in SaM and hoped that
these trends would continue. Sanader expressed concern about
political developments in Belgrade, particularly about the
strength of the Serb Radical Party, which he said has as part
of its party doctrine a goal of re-annexing Croatian
territory. Should the Serb Radical Party candidate win in
June 13 Presidential elections, it would complicate a wide
range of issues, including in Kosovo and Republika Srpksa,
Sanader told the SYG.

7. (C) The SYG told NATO Ambassadors he had no answers for
Sanader on how the international community should proceed on
Kosovo. He spoke bluntly, in very pessimistic terms, to NATO
Ambassadors about the situation in Kosovo, and said he is
"not confident" in the current plan; "it is difficult to talk
about 'Standards before Status' when there are no standards."

Strong Words for Parliament


8. (C) In addition to ICTY cooperation, the SYG used his
speech to the Croatian parliament to press for continued
efforts on refugee return, judicial reform and defense
reform. He pressed legislators to continue to approve the
necessary budget support to modernize Croatia's defense
forces. He also highlighted that the two-thirds majority
vote in parliament required before deploying troops abroad
would restrict Croatia's ability to respond to a rapid NATO

Public Support for NATO Falling


9. (C) The SYG said he had discussed the drop in public
support for NATO in several of his meetings with GoC
officials. The GoC recognized the challenge, but pointed out
that the public has firmly associated NATO with U.S. policy
and Iraq. The Ambassador concurred that the Croatian public
did not understand the broad goals of NATO and challenged his
ambassadorial colleagues in Zagreb to be more active in
explaining publicly the benefits of membership in the
Alliance. The German Ambassador said that two other factors
added to the drop in public support. The first is that the
security environment in the region has changed; Croatians no
longer feel an imminent military threat. The second is less
tangible; many Croatians are tired of being lectured to, he
said. We should make it plain in our public statements that
the Alliance wants Croatia to succeed and that NATO will
benefit from Croatia's membership.