Croatia. The War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague announced in April the convictions against three Croatian former generals, including Ante Gotovina, who was one of the most wanted on the UN Court’s list before he was arrested in 2005. Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years in prison, while Mladen Markač received 18 years. According to Countryaah official site, the third general, Ivan Čermak, was acquitted of charges of war crimes against Serbs in connection with Croatia regaining control of the Krajina breakaway republic in 1995. Large protest demonstrations were held in the capital Zagreb and elsewhere. Many Croats have continued to regard the generals as national heroes.
The membership negotiations with the EU were completed in June. Croatia was found to have fulfilled all conditions, including: by adapting its legislation to EU requirements. At the EU summit in December, the Accession Treaty was signed. This left the approval of the individual member states and a referendum in Croatia. At the earliest, the country was expected to become a member at the turn of the year 2013.
Former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader was extradited from Austria in July, where he fled before the New Year away from corruption charges. Sanader, who was head of government in 2003–09, was charged with receiving bribes from an Austrian bank when he was Deputy Foreign Minister in the 1990s. The trial began in November.
In the December parliamentary elections, the Conservative government party HDZ lost power. The largest was the Social Democratic Party SDP, which was a member of the Left Alliance Kukuriku (‘Kuckeliku’) together with three small parties. SDP leader Zoran Milanović became new prime minister. There was no easy situation for a new government: government debt rose and interest rates on government bonds approached the level that has forced several EU countries to seek emergency loans. Unemployment approached 20% towards the end of the year.
Croatia’s contemporary history is the country’s history after 1991. Croatia was the second largest republic in former Yugoslavia in the period 1918-1992. On June 25, 1991, Croatia declared itself independent. Following the Declaration of Independence a civil war in the Serbian- populated areas of the Republic.
Croatia achieved international recognition in 1992.
Political development in independent Croatia
After independence, political life was characterized by a growing authoritarian and nationalist attitude in the leading party HDZ. The media was state-controlled, and the opposition complained that the regime used undemocratic methods. Several countries were concerned about human rights violations in Croatia. President Tudjman and HDZ remained in power until the end of the 1990s, even though the opposition was strong in the major cities. In Dalmatia and especially Istra the regional parties stood strong.
Economically, Croatia was greatly weakened by the war. Privatization was slow. People with good contacts in HDZ got leading positions in the business community, and there was widespread corruption. President Tudjman was re-elected in the 1992 election with 56 percent of the vote. HDZ also won the parliamentary elections and formed a government led by Hrvoje Šarinić.
In 1993, there was political unrest in Croatia over the Krajina conflict, the question of autonomy for a peninsula northwest of Croatia, dissatisfaction with the country’s economy and Croatia’s involvement in the Bosnia conflict. The government resigned at the end of March. A series of financial scandals and a rapid deterioration of the economy followed. Nikica Valentić – former head of the Croatian state oil company – became the new prime minister. HDZ now formed government alone, but the party was split the following year. A liberal wing was dissatisfied with Tudjman’s anti-Muslim stance. In addition, the wing felt that the defense minister had to step down because of Croatia’s involvement in the Bosnia conflict. Yugoslavia’s former president Stipe Mesić helped form a new Liberal Party, which became the largest opposition party. At the 1995 election, HDZ received about 45 percent of the vote and formed a government led by Zatko Matesa (1995-2000).
In 1995, the Croatian Parliament decided to reduce the Serbs’ rights; the law on minorities had given the Serbs special rights in the areas where they had been in the majority. The war and the flow of refugees had changed this. It was also reported that Croatian authorities had resettled around 100,000 Bosnian refugees in Krajina, despite criticism from the UN.
Tudjman regained confidence in the 1997 presidential election. However, the OSCE criticized the election because the opposition had not appeared in state-controlled media during the election campaign. President Tudjman died in December 1999, and in the January / February 2000 presidential elections, Stipe Mesić won from the HNS Liberal Party after two rounds of elections. Mesić was critical of Tudjman’s policies, which he believed were too nationalistic and authoritarian. HDZ also lost government power in the 2000 election. A Social Democratic party got the most votes and Ivica Račan became prime minister.
In September 2000, Mesić deposed several generals from the Croatian army; the generals had criticized the authority’s policy. He also testified before the War Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002. The right wing in Croatian politics claimed he testified falsely.
At the 2003 parliamentary elections, HDZ again won the election with the support of two Conservative parties. Ivo Sanader became new prime minister; under Sanader’s leadership, HDZ has emerged as a moderately conservative party.
During President Mesić (2000-2010), the election promises to create a democratic parliamentary system were fulfilled. He diminished the president’s power and helped to end Croatia’s isolation in an international context. Croatia’s third president, Ivo Josipović, lost re-election in 2015 in favor of the country’s first female president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.
The most important foreign policy objective of the Croatian authorities has been EU and NATO membership. Croatia made significant progress in meeting the EU and NATO criteria, and membership negotiations with the EU, which started in 2005, ended in 2013, when Croatia was incorporated as an EU country. In 2009, Croatia gained NATO membership.