Croatia. When the presidential elections were held in
January, the only surprise was that Stjepan (Stipe) Mesić
did not secure another five years as head of state already
in the first round. Mesić, who was a candidate for a
coalition of reform-friendly parties, is seen by many Croats
as a country father. In the second round, he got two-thirds
of the votes and thus won by a large margin over the
challenger Jadranka Kosor. She was the Conservative
government party HDZ's candidate.
countryaah, Croatia is scheduled to begin its membership negotiations
with the EU in March. But the EU delayed the start of
negotiations indefinitely as the Zagreb government was not
considered to cooperate sufficiently with the UN War Crimes
Tribunal in The Hague. It was especially about General Ante
Gotovina, generally regarded as number three on the Hague
Tribunal's search list after the 1990s war in the Balkans.
The Croats failed to convince the EU that they made every
effort to arrest Gotovina and surrender him to The Hague.
In April, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader dismissed the Chief
of the Criminal Police on the grounds that he was neglected
in the search for Gotovina. Sanader also warned that more
risks would be dismissed unless the tensions were handled
better. Not long afterwards, signals came from the EU that
K. improved cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. On the
other hand, the UN Attorney General's Prosecutor Carla del
Ponte continued to argue that Gotovina could be arrested if
the government really wanted to.
But in October, in the context of the EU crisis over
whether Turkey should start membership negotiations, she
suddenly stated that Zagreb was now fully cooperating, even
though Gotovina was still at large. In this way, the EU
could immediately begin negotiations on Croatian membership
in the Union.
In December, Gotovina was finally arrested, in the Canary
Islands, where he resided with a false passport. He was
brought to The Hague within a few days to be tried. Many
Croats were upset because they saw the general as a war
hero. Opinion polls showed a strong race in voter support
Six dead swans found in a national park in eastern K. in
October were found to be infected by the dangerous variant
of the bird flu virus H5N1. This resulted in the killing of
tens of thousands of chickens in the area.