Capital City: Zagreb (population: 1m)
People: Croatian, Serb, Slavic Muslim, Hungarian, Slovene and Italian
Languages: Croatian, Serbian, Italian and Slovene
Religion: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim
Major Political Parties: Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Head of State: President Stjepan Mesic
Prime Minister: Ivica Racan
Foreign Minister: Tonino Picula
Membership of International Organisations: United Nations, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, Stability Pact, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organisation, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Partnership for Peace.
Although Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia in June 1991 simultaneously with Slovenia at the start of the break-up of the Federation, its secession met with fierce resistance from Yugoslavia partly because of the significant Serb population in Croatia. A year earlier, Franjo Tudjman had been appointed President of the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union, a party which he founded in 1989) in Croatia's first multi-party elections, while Croatia was still part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. These elections removed the Communists from power. Tudjman's electoral platform did not call specifically for independence, but made a bid for a free and sovereign Croatia. This ignited an exultant display of Croatian nationalism which convinced the substantial (12%) Serb element of Croatia's population that their rights were in danger. The introduction of a new Constitution changed the definition of the Croatian Republic reducing the status of Serbs from equal citizens to a minority in a foreign state. This move confirmed Serb suspicions, which were then stoked by Belgrade-based politicians and media, priming the Serb population for the conflict that followed.
In 1990, as Croatian calls for independence grew louder, Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) leader Jovan Raskovic organised a referendum in August on Serbian autonomy within Croatia. Armed Serb/Croat confrontation flared up as Serbian irregulars moved in to the city of Knin to guarantee voting. The referendum resulted in the Knin-based Serbian National Council declaring autonomy for the 'Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina' in October 1990, followed four months later by a declaration of independence from Croatia. In May 1991, the Krajina announced that henceforth it considered itself a part of Serbia. There were violent clashes throughout the period.
Croatia and Slovenia announced their independence from Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991. In response, Yugoslavia despatched its army (JNA) in a show of force designed to get Slovenia to back down. After a 10-day war brought to an end through an EC mediated deal between Yugoslavia and Slovenia, the JNA withdrew from Slovenia and concentrated its efforts in Croatia, where open conflict began in July 1991. While the war continued, Croatia's Serbian 'autonomous regions' united in December 1991 to form the self-styled 'Republic of Serbian Krajina' ('RSK'). In January 1992, the American mediator Cyrus Vance brokered a deal to despatch to the region a UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), and hostilities between Yugoslavia and Croatia came to an end. However, the situation over the 'RSK', which Croatia considered an illegal Serb occupation of one third of its sovereign territory, remained unresolved.
|In December 1995, President Tudjman signed the General Framework for Peace Agreement, known as the Dayton Agreement.|
Parliamentary elections were held in October 1995, resulting in the HDZ winning 75 of 127 available seats. This was less than expected given the euphoria generated by the government's decisive military actions, coupled with changes to the electoral law designed to favour the ruling party. The HDZ (the governing party) lost control of Zagreb city council but Tudjman refused to accept an opposition mayor, proposing instead a coalition authority. In December 1995, President Tudjman signed the General Framework for Peace, known as the Dayton Agreement.
Longer Historical Perspective
|BBC News Country Timeline: Croatia|
Recent Political Developments
As the defender of Croatian independence and territorial integrity, the HDZ enjoyed unchallenged power from 1990 until President Tudjman's death on 10 December 1999. But the HDZ's nationalist policies combined with a failure to meet international commitments on the protection of human rights and commitment to democratic standards, effectively isolated Croatia from the European mainstream.
Since the death of President Tudjman, the Croatian political landscape has changed beyond recognition. Ivica Racan led a coalition of opposition parties to victory in parliamentary elections on 3 January 2000 and has since succeeded in fashioning a functioning coalition Government. Stjepan Mesic won the second round of the presidential elections on 7 February 2000 and was inaugurated as President on 18 February 2000.
Since gaining office, Prime Minister Racan and President Mesic have pursued economic and political reform programmes. These have included restructuring of the Croatian Armed Forces and Civil Service; working towards the establishment of an independent, public broadcasting service and liberalisation of the media; a new approach to Croatia's ethnic minorities, including removal of some legislative provisions which discriminated against ethnic Serb refugees; and constitutional reform. Racan and Mesic have established partnerships with the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Little progress was made on the return of ethnic Serb refugees under Tudjman. Since the beginning of 2000, UNHCR and other international agencies have reported more promising signs. The Government has announced several encouraging initiatives to tackle the problems associated with refugee return. It is important that these initiatives are now successfully implemented.
In February 2002, Drazen Budisa was re-elected as the leader of the HSLS (a centre-right coalition party), beating the then Defence Minister Jozo Rados. He had resigned as leader of the HSLS in July 2001 in protest over the Government's decision to extradite Generals Gotovina and Ademi to The Hague. After intense negotiations, two Ministers left the coalition, with Prime Minister Racan agreeing to Budisa replacing Granic as Deputy Prime Minister.
In early July, eight of the HSLS's twenty-three MPs voted against the government in opposing the ratification of an agreement with Slovenia to jointly manage the Krsko nuclear power station in Slovenia. This move led to the creation of a new party, HSLS breakaway, Libra – whose members include former Defence Minister Rados and former Deputy Prime Minister Granic. Prime Minister Racan resigned shortly after on 5 July. He was re-appointed as caretaker PM by President Mesic and given thirty days to form a government.
The new Government led by Racan was approved by the Sabor at the end of July. It consists of the SDP (Social Democrats), HSS (Croatian Peasant's Party), HNS (Croatian People's Party), LS (Liberal Party) and LIBRA (Independent Liberal Party). The HSLS was removed from the Coalition, with Budisa being replaced as Deputy Prime Minister by Professor Ante Simonic of the HSS.
Croatia was recently accepted into the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), and is now working to implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) which it signed with the EU last year. Relations with Croatia's neighbours, particularly FRY and Bosnia-Hercegovina have improved significantly.
Croatian news websites with text in English
State news agency
State television company
Independent weekly political magazine
Co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
|General Ante Gotovina is still on the run after details of his sealed indictment were disclosed in July 2001.|
On 20 September 2002, a warrant for the arrest of General Janko Bobetko, a former wartime Chief of Staff was delivered to the Croatian Government. General Bobetko was indicted for war crimes committed during an operation to retake Serb-held Croatian territory (the 'Medak Pocket') in 1993. The Croatian Government had failed to serve this indictment on General Bobetko. They lodged two appeals with the Tribunal, which questioned the legitimacy of the indictment and noted the advanced age and ill health of the indictee. In late November both appeals were rejected by The Hague. Subsequently, the Government lodged an appeal under ICTY Rules of Procedure stating that Bobetko was too ill to stand trial.
An ICTY medical team examined the indictee in January 2003. At the end of March, the ICTY trial judge announced that Bobetko was unfit to face trial. However, he demanded that the indictment be immediately served. On 4 April, six months after the indictment was first issued, the Croatian Government served the indictment on Bobetko's legal representative, after the Zagreb County Court had refused to do so. The indictment was calmly received both politically and publicly. However, on 29 April 2003, General Bobetko died in Zagreb.
On 14 February, the Chief Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, publicly stated that she was still not satisfied with the level of co-operation she was receiving from the Croatian Government, and they were still failing to comply with their international obligations. She highlighted the fact that the Bobetko indictment had still not been served, Gotovina was still on the run and documentary requests dating back to 2001 had not yet been met.
Ratification of Croatia's SAA was suspended in October 2002 because of the Croatian Government's lack of co-operation with ICTY, in particular over the Bobetko indictment. Full co-operation with ICTY is one of the key conditions for implementation of the SAA. We are looking closely at Croatia's past and current record of overall co-operation with ICTY. Full co-operation with ICTY will be essential for the ratification process to be resumed.
Both our EU and NATO Partners have made it clear to the Croatian Government that failure to co-operate fully with the ICTY will severely jeopardise their EU and NATO aspirations. Only resumption of full-co-operation with ICTY will put Croatia firmly back on the Euro-Atlantic track on which it belongs.
|Text of indictment|
|International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)|
On 12 November 1995, during the Dayton negotiations, the Croatian government and Eastern Slavonia's Serb leadership signed a 'Basic Agreement' with the eventual goal of reintegrating the region into Croatia. The agreement allowed for a transitional period of demilitarisation and government by an international transitional administration backed by an implementation force. On 15 January 1996, UN Security Council Resolution 1037 established UNTAES (UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia), headed first by Jacques Klein, and later by William Walker. Control of the region was handed back to Zagreb on 15 January 1998 and with the government's agreement, took over some of the UNTAES tasks including police monitoring.
Basic Economic Facts
GDP: US$ 20.26bn
GDP per head: US$ 4,566
Annual Growth: 3%
Major Industries: Steel, cement, chemicals, fertilisers, textiles and pharmaceuticals
Major trading partners: EU, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia
Exchange Rate: 12 Kuna/£ (February 2003)
Further information on Croatia's economy can be found on the Trade Partners UK Country Profile: Croatia
The Racan government has tried to get a grip on Croatia's public finances, after a decade of economic mismanagement and the effects of war. It has introduced budget cuts and initiated a wide-ranging economic reform programme. Negotiations with the IMF on a new stand-by agreement have been completed and the World Bank has agreed a US$20m loan. It now seems as though the economy has started to come out of recession. The economy grew by an estimated 4% in 2001 and similar growth is expected in 2002. But further reforms are necessary, as is action to tackle the 23% official unemployment rate. Priority areas include pension reform, health service reform and the ending of subsidies to state-owned enterprises, if the economy is to prosper. Croatia is keen to attract inward investment.
Croatia's Relations with Neighbours
The impact of Racan and Mesic's policies has been greatest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Under President Tudjman, Croatia failed to implement the spirit of the Dayton Peace Agreement and actively supported anti-Dayton groups with Bosnia. On gaining office, Racan and Mesic promised an end to these policies. They have moved rapidly to place any future Croatian support for the Bosnian-Croat armed forces on a transparent footing. Their support for a multi-ethnic Bosnia is clear. President Mesic met FRY President Kostunica and the state level Bosnian Presidency in Sarajevo on 15 July 2002 to underline their commitment to the implementation of Dayton and regional co-operation on cross border issues such as organised crime and progress towards European integration.
The two countries worked closely in the last couple of years towards reaching agreement on the future status of the Prevlaka Peninsula. The UN Peacekeeping Mission (UNMOP) which was stationed there drew to a close at the end of 2002. The completion of the UN mandate in Prevlaka and the re-establishment of Croatia's sovereignty over the area ensued after Croatia and Yugoslavia signed an agreement on Tuesday 10 December on a temporary regime along the southern borderline. The peninsula has been the subject of dispute for ten years. The protocol represents a further step forward in the process of strengthening of confidence and good-neighbourly relations between both Croatia and FRY, and bolsters peace and stability to the regions.
Croatia also maintains good relations with a number of Central and Eastern European States.
FCO Minister, Denis MacShane, welcomes agreement on the Prevlaka.
Croatia's Relations with the International Community
Croatia's foreign policy priorities include closer relations with international organisations. The new government has made rapid progress; Croatia joined Partnership for Peace (PfP) in May 2000 and the WTO in June 2000. Croatia's Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the first step towards a closer relationship with the EU was initialled on 12 May 2001 and signed on 29 October 2001. Croatia is now working towards implementing the conditions of the SAA, in preparation for eventual EU membership.
The highlight of FCO Minister Denis MacShane's visit to Zagreb in May 2002 was the launch of the UK Croatia EU Action Plan, which provides assistance to Croatia in implementing its SAA. The launch was widely reported in the Croatian media. Parliament's ratification of the SAA has been postponed due to the Croatian Government's failure to fully co-operate with ICTY (See 'Co-operation with ICTY').
In Athens on 21 February 2003, President Mesic and Prime Minster Racan presented Croatia's EU membership application to the Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, Chairman of the European Council. The UK is a champion of enlargement and recognises the regional stability that it will bring. However, before the EU can open membership negotiations the European Commission must give a positive account of Croatia's performance against the so-called Copenhagen political criteria -which includes important issues like ICTY co-operation, refugee return, respect for minority rights and judicial reform.
The UN Peacekeeping Mission (UNMOP)
|World Trade Organisation (WTO)|
CROATIA'S RELATIONS WITH THE UK
Although EU member states recognised Croatia on 15 January 1992, the UK delayed establishing diplomatic relations on account of concerns about legislation protecting minorities. On 8 May 1992, the Croatian Parliament amended this legislation and the UK established diplomatic relations with Croatia on 25 June 1992.
UK representation in Croatia
Croatian representation in the UK
UK Development Assistance
The UK continues to support the transition process in Croatia. This is achieved through assistance programmes designed to promote social and economic development, democratic stability, justice and home affairs reform, and administrative capacity building. These programmes will help Croatia realise its efforts towards European Integration through the Stabilisation and Association process. Whilst the bulk of UK support is channelled through programmes of the large multilateral institutions such as the EU, OSCE and World Bank, both the FCO and DFID have sizeable bilateral programmes. Ongoing FCO projects are focussed on a range of issues including the promotion of civil society, human rights and the protection of minorities, judicial and legislative reform, police and military reform, disaster management and the environment, and fostering peace and reconciliation in schools. Over the next year further assistance is planned under the Government's global conflict prevention fund which will include projects on parliamentary and local election reform and cross border workshops to promote inter-ethnic tolerance and reconciliation in war affected areas. The Department for International Development (DFID) has published a strategy paper for Croatia, which details ongoing assistance programmes contributing towards effective strategies for social services, labour and employment and poverty monitoring. Also targeted are health sector and civil society reform, capacity building in the Ministry of European Integration, and improved access to justice for all citizens and communities.
|Department for International Development (DFID)|
Cultural Relations with the UK
Bilateral relations are excellent.
|President Stjepan Mesic with Her Majesty the Queen on his visit to the UK on 16-20 December 2001.|
Outward Dr Macshane visited Zagreb on 28-29 May 2002. During his visit he met with President Mesic, senior government ministers including Deputy Prime Minister Budisa, Deputy Foreign Minister Cvjetkovic, Minister for the European Integration Mimica as well as some political figures and Chevening Scholars. FCO Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Dr Denis MacShane, visited Croatia on 27-28 November 2001, where, amongst others, he met President Mesic, Foreign Minister Picula and Deputy Prime Minister Goran Granic. Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett, 26-27 March 2001 Robin Cook and Tony Blair, Zagreb Summit, 24 November 2000 FCO Europe Minister, Keith Vaz MP, represented the UK at the inauguration of President Mesic in Zagreb on 18 February 2000
Travel advice: Croatia
Last updated: 16 July 2003