|05ZAGREB183||2005-02-07 06:36:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Zagreb|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 000183
1. (SBU) The U.S. delegation to the Adriatic Charter (A3)
Defense Ministerial, led by Ambassador Frank, met with the
State Secretary of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
on 24 January 2005 and the Minister of Defense of Croatia on
25 January 2005. Mr. Alan Van Egmond, OSD Director of
Balkans and Eurasia Programs, led the for the Department of
Defense in both meetings. Subjects covered included NATO
accession, various topics on defense reform, the Croatian
political situation and its affect on Croatia's campaign for
NATO membership, regional security and stability in South
East Europe, an Article 98 Agreement, furthering Croatia's
participation in international peacekeeping operations in
Afghanistan, and possible new non-military contributions to
Iraq. END SUMMARY
MFA STATE SECRETARY BISCEVIC
2. (SBU) The meeting with State Secretary Hidajet Biscevic (a
rumored candidate to replace outgoing FM Miomir Zuzul) took
place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Croatian
Ambassador to the US, Neven Jurica, also attended. Biscevic
began by saying that he was ready to discuss all issues and
would brief the delegation on bilateral relations, especially
in the area of possible peacekeeping roles for Croatia with
NATO. Mr. Van Egmond opened by stating that the United
States believes that Croatia belongs in NATO and that Croatia
can help the alliance. He continued that the USG will be
focusing on the next few months for assistance as a decision
will most likely be made on the next round of any expansion
of NATO in early 2006. Within this short timeline, he
expressed that there is not a lot of time for slippage in
Croatian reform efforts. Van Egmond noted that Croatia's
most recent Annual National Program (ANP) received positive
reviews. While urging Croatia to continue with necessary
regional cooperation, he commended Croatia on the pursuit of
regional leadership roles in the Adriatic Charter (A3) and
the Southeastern Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM).
3. (SBU) Mr. Van Egmond repeated the Istanbul Communique -
that NATO will assess each country on its own merits in
deciding whether or not to admit a new member. He remarked
that there is concern that with the recent political
turbulence some defense reform issues could be affected.
After the Bilateral Defense Consultation to be held in
Croatia in the early summer, there will only be a few months
left to work on full achievement of Croatia's Partnership
4. (SBU) Biscevic appreciated the candid assessment of
Croatia's current situation with regards to a potential NATO
decision and the support of the USG in that process. While
expressing hope that with the passing of "election fever" a
working context could be created, Biscevic observed that a
hectic EU agenda will divert much of the government's energy.
However, He stated that within the next 4-6 months there has
to be a clearer picture and that once there is a normalized
situation Croatia can focus more on NATO. In the meantime,
the political framework in Croatia is oriented to keep NATO
accession preparation going. Importantly, he submitted that
because the discussion on NATO has not yet been accompanied
by an educated public awareness campaign, that a positive
public relations drive would start in a couple of weeks.
5. (SBU) On regional Cooperation, Biscevic remarked that A3
participation is "very, very important" and that Croatia now
accepts and promotes the regional aspect of the A3. He
believes that the A3 will lead to greater stability in South
East Europe and that given the political situation in some
neighboring countries, the A3 will have a role in helping.
6. (SBU) Mr. Van Egmond then raised several items for
discussion: NATO/EU tension in Croatia, an Article 98
agreement, and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
7. (SBU) Addressing the sometimes seeming tension between
Croatia's paths to accession in the EU and NATO, he affirmed
that the two organizations are partners. A good example is
the recent transition from SFOR to EURFOR in Bosnia. This
process was characterized with good cooperation and hard work
by both sides.
8. (C) On a possible Article 98 agreement, Mr. Van Egmond
noted that this is a tough bilateral issue to grapple with as
it binds our hands as far as providing training and security
assistance is concerned. Informing the State Secretary that
there are some new ways to get these types of agreements
done, because of Croatia's re-engagement on this topic, the
USG will begin looking at new avenues of approach.
9. (SBU) Relating to PSI, Van Egmond was appreciative of the
support that Croatia has given. He noted that as Croatia has
already shown a proactive way to interdict, increased
cooperation through activities is something that will
increase our bilateral relationship as well as make the
region more secure. One possible way to increase Croatia's
counter-proliferation efforts is through USG assistance under
the International Counter-proliferation Program (ICP). As
this money is not barred by the absence of an Article 98
agreement, that help is available.
10. (SBU) State Secretary Biscevic stated Croatia's belief in
the compatibility of the EU and NATO. He said Croatia
understands that there must be more done on NATO awareness.
According to Biscevic, on PSI, Croatia would like to be very
active. The government is about to nominate a PSI
coordinator and will undertake a review of bilateral
agreements with the United States to improve the strategic
framework. He stated that Croatia is ready to participate in
PSI exercises, particularly the upcoming exercises in Spain
and Portugal, and that within PSI and the greater topic of
border control, the Adriatic Charter gives an opportunity for
cooperation. He also re-iterated the Croatian goal of
signing a ship-boarding agreement with the United States. On
the subject of regional cooperation on counter-proliferation,
Biscevic announced the recent signing of bilateral agreements
with Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina on the
exchange of classified information. The agreements, he
explained, are important for further cooperation on Hague
Tribunal indictees and border security. Additionally,
Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will undertake discussions on
the delineation of their shared border.
11. (C) Biscevic then spoke to Article 98 and the Croatian
desire to re-engage on this issue. Biscevic related that in
the post-election mood, promising new avenues could be opened
on this issue. The MFA is proposing to have a Croatian legal
team come to Washington for further discussions. The
Croatians would like private, expert level discussions.
12. (SBU) Croatia would like to expand their cooperation on
Iraq. In addition to proposals to train Iraqi government and
civil administrative workers, Biscevic asserted that Croatia
would be ready to help with structuring the development of
administration. The idea is to invite 10-20 Iraqis for
education and training in Croatia. Biscevic also mentioned
that Croatia has some military equipment available for
donation. He also mentioned that some Croatian demining
companies had approached the government and inquired about
contract possibilities in Croatia. Finally, Biscevic was
pleased to announce that Croatia is sending a few election
observers to Iraq. These were all, in Croatia,s view,
concrete, pragmatic measures to continue dialogue.
13. (SBU) Mr. Van Egmond agreed that engagement needed on
Iraq is not purely military in nature. Training is needed
and we have to address requirements like demining. However,
maybe Croatia will be interested in the intermediate
possibilities of further cooperation like the UN protection
mission. He stressed that it is important to the U.S. that
Croatia is looking to increase cooperation in a post-election
Iraq. The proposed forensics cooperation will be a good
start. This forensics capacity can be a niche capability.
14. (SBU) On Afghanistan, Van Egmond thanked Biscevic for
Croatia,s recent deployment to a Provincial Reconstruction
Team (PRT). He noted that Secretary Rumsfeld is aware that
Prime Minister Sanader did take action on his request for
Croatia to engage on PRTs. Van Egmond then inquired whether
Croatia could expand cooperation on PRTs and remarked that
Lithuania would be standing up a new PRT. As more
opportunities evolve, Van Egmond stated, this can be a way
for Croatia to get involved. Additionally, he asked whether
Croatia was planning to follow up on their offer of sending
police trainers to the Jordan international Police Training
15. (SBU) Biscevic responded that in Croatia there are
post-war sensibilities that must be considered. He remarked
that Croatia was ready to consider the police training issue
and that Croatia will look at this more seriously as Sanader
is planning to visit Jordan in the near term. Noting that
Croatia had established diplomatic relations with Iraq two
weeks prior, and that in previous times Croatian companies
did business in Iraq, Biscevic then asked for U.S. help in
having Croatian private companies access that market.
16. (SBU) In concluding remarks, Biscevic stated that Croatia
will expand cooperation with the Coalition. When Iraq is
more stable, he said, more can happen.
MINISTER OF DEFENSE RONCEVIC
17. (SBU) Mr. Van Egmond led the U.S. delegation in a meeting
with Croatia Minister of Defense Berislav Roncevic. Roncevic
opened the meeting by discussing his interview in the 25
January edition of Croatian weekly magazine &Nacional8.
Roncevic noted that while some of the attributed remarks were
&unauthorized8, the most important part ) his apology for
using &harsh words8 to the President ) was published.
18. (SBU) Van Egmond noted that there are likely only two
more opportunities for bilateral consultations before NATO,s
decision process on accepting new members in 2006 begins )
April presentation of the OSD-sponsored Defense Assessment
(DA) and the June Bilateral Defense Consultations. Because
of this time frame, Van Egmond requested a status update on
the Croatian Armed Forces (CAF) Strategic Defense Review
(SDR). He remarked that the U.S. would like the SDR and the
DA to be complementary reports. Because the decision process
will begin soon, we would like to know where Croatia is on
defense reform so we can help.
19. (SBU) Roncevic replied that the Croatians are very close
to a finalized draft. According to Roncevic, four of the
five phases are complete. The final phase ) the General
Staff,s proposal for a structure of the Armed Forces ) is
important because it requires financial verification. This
verification has the goal of shaping the CAF into what the
Croatians want: a small and affordable Armed Forces.
Affordability, Roncevic asserted, will be based on verified
parameters. He continued that if the proposed model is not
affordable, cuts will be made. As far as the process itself
is concerned, no one in the government has withdrawn from the
project. The problems are with the proposed model of
20. (SBU) Van Egmond then turned the conversation to NATO.
As the U.S. is willing to help Croatia with NATO accession,
it is important that Croatia take a larger role in public
relations. Van Egmond noted that public opinion needs work.
He remarked that President Mesic has not been helpful in this
regard with his recent ambivalence towards NATO membership.
21. (SBU) Roncevic responded that he did not want to comment
on the opinion of the President. He stated that with regards
to the timing of the next Summit, he will pass the comments
and advice to the Prime Minister. Roncevic maintained that
NATO accession is as important a goal as getting into the EU.
On the subject of public opinion, he replied that the
government is aware that those who are in favor of NATO must
begin to speak louder and receive more space in the media.
22. (SBU) Van Egmond remarked that there seems to be an
impression that the EU and NATO are not complementary
organizations: for Croatia the choice is between one or the
other. In fact, NATO and the EU are compatible and work
together well. It would be helpful if Croatian leaders could
provide more perspective to Croatians on the need to work
closely with both the EU and NATO. Roncevic fully agreed but
noted that Euro-skeptics get more press in Croatia.
23. (SBU) On Coalition support, Van Egmond thanked Croatia
for their continuing contribution to ISAF. He also thanked
the Croatians for looking at ways to expand contact with Iraq
and the Iraqi government. He remarked that the U.S. would
welcome a contribution of trainers for the Iraqi police in
Jordan. He added that Lithuania is looking to stand up a PRT
in Afghanistan and asked if Croatia would be interested in
24. (SBU) Roncevic replied that Croatia will be contacting
Turkey about potentially joining a new PRT.
25. (C) The subject then turned to the issue of whether
Croatia will maintain air policing as a capability after
their defense reform process. Roncevic said that this is a
question of when to stop investing in something old and when
to get into something newer. Van Egmond asked that this
should become a question of what the best way is to use the
resources that Croatia has available. Assistant Minister for
Policy, Jelena Grcic-Polic, remarked that while visiting
NATO,s Defense Section in October, the Croatian delegation
was told that NATO would prefer those countries that want to
keep the air policing capability to keep the capability.
Roncevic added that he has a vision of what is affordable and
Croatia will pursue that path.
26. (SBU) In conclusion, both sides looked forward to the
upcoming defense assessment and Bilateral Defense
Consultations in early summer.
27. (C) The meeting with State Secretary Biscevic covered
most of the same ground that Ambassador to the United States,
Neven Jurica, relayed to Assistant Secretary of Defense Mira
Ricardel on 13 January 2005. The most newsworthy items from
the discussion with the State Secretary are the Croatian
governments plans to step up a public relations campaign for
NATO in the coming weeks and the new effort by the Croatians
on an Article 98 agreement.
28. (C) The SDR has now been delayed for a third time and
there is chatter that it may be scrapped entirely. On
Coalition issues, Roncevic,s statement that Croatia will
soon contact Turkey on providing for a PRT is promising as
Croatia has only recently begun supporting the German PRT in
Faizabad. END COMMENT.
29. (U) This message was cleared by OSD Policy.