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The Role of the International Community

United Nations
UNTAES concluded its two-year mandate on January 15. While UNTAES managed the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia into Croatia, the ongoing flight of Serbs from the region circumscribed its success. At the request of the Croatian government, the Security Council established the UNCPSG to continue monitoring the region’s Transitional Police Force until October. Security Council presidential statements in March and July decried Croatia’s failure to fulfill key obligations of the 1995 Erdut and 1997 Joint Working Group agreements, including implementation of the amnesty and convalidation laws and funding for the Joint Council of Municipalities. Despite a growing need to protect returnees, UNHCR continued to consolidate its operations in Croatia, closing field offices and reducing international staff. After considering the report of its special rapporteur for the Former Yugoslavia, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution at its April Session calling on Croatia to facilitate the return “of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes,” and also “to guarantee freedom of association and the press.”

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
After UNTAES’s mandate ended, the OSCE became the leading international organization in Croatia. While the mission often took a critical stance in confidential reports, its self-styled “political” function, coupled with diplomatic public statements and an unwillingness actively to monitor or intervene in human rights cases fell short of the full potential of its mandate. With more than 280 personnel, of which 120 were police monitors, deployed in regional centers and field offices, the mission played a central role in negotiating the procedures and program for return (described above) and expanded its operations in Eastern Slavonia after January 15. The newly appointed OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media, Freimut Duve, identified the government’s control of media distribution, excessive libel and defamation prosecution, and inadequate competition within the electronic media as factors restricting the development of free and independent media in Croatia. Following a July decision by the OSCE Permanent Council, the mission took over police monitoring in Eastern Slavonia from the UNCPSG on October 15. At the time of this writing, the mission mandate was expected to be renewed unchanged at the end of 1998.

Council of Europe
In November 1997, Croatia confirmed its ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages (a requirement of its membership in the Council of Europe). Unfulfilled membershiprequirements prompted legislative recommendations on media reform issued by the council in March, and a preliminary report from the Parliamentary Assembly’s Monitoring Committee the same month highlighting the need for greater Croatian commitment to the return of Serb refugees. During a June visit, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly, Leni Fischer, pointed to the need for continued efforts on “freedom and independence of the media, freedom of expression, resolving ethnic problems, and shortcomings related to election proceedings.” The Assembly’s Migration Committee visited Croatia in October to assess progress in the return of refugees and displaced persons.

European Union
E.U. relations with Croatia continued to be governed by the E.U.’s “Regional Approach to Countries of South-East Europe,” which has a comprehensive set of human rights criteria. Croatia’s failure to meet these human rights criteria caused the E.U. to limit aid to Croatia to 6.65 million ECU (U.S. $7.74 million) for humanitarian assistance and 2.7 million ECU (U.S. $ 3.14 million) in support to independent media, and it remained ineligible for PHARE reconstruction aid. On April 27, the E.U. Council of Ministers threatened to suspend autonomous trade measures (ATMs) with Croatia, citing especially the Procedure for Return as inadequate. The threat of worsening E.U. relations was instrumental in Croatia’s adoption of Mandatory Instructions and the Program on Return, both of which were cautiously welcomed by the council. While the suspension of ATMs appeared unlikely at the time of this writing, the council’s conclusions of June 29 stated that any improvement of relations would be conditioned on full implementation of the Program on Return.

United States
The United States relied mainly on incentives to induce Croatia to meet its Dayton commitments and improve its domestic human rights record. In January, USAID announced a $13.5 million two-year reconstruction assistance program designed to facilitate the reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons into their former communities. The first year grant of $7.5 million formed part of the $23 million provided to Croatia through the SEED technical assistance fund. Croatia also received an estimated $425,000 through the IMET military training program. The close military relationship between the two countries was underscored by strong indications from the State Department in May and July that Croatia might be eligible for membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace by year’s end provided that it made progress on refugee returns, Dayton implementation, and democratization. Remarks during Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s August visit to Croatia, however, signaled growing frustration over Croatia’s intransigence in all three areas, particularly with regard to its internal democracy and continued interference in Bosnian politics.





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