Croatia - Foreign Relations
Croatia has made great strides on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration. NATO and EU membership have been strategic goals, as Croatia seeks to forge stronger ties with the west. Croatia received an invitation to join NATO at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania in April 2008; it became a full member of the Alliance in April 2009. By early 2011 Croatia was in the final stage of its EU accession negotiations, which it had concluded on 08 June 2011.
Croatia joined the European Union on 01 July 2013 - marking the end of its journey to accession, and a remarkable turnaround for a country that was ravaged by war during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. But there has been a marked absence of enthusiasm for EU membership among much of the population. Full membership means that Croatia will be able to sell its products tariff-free across the EU.
The right-of-center government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader aggressively promoted its international credibility, serving as a leader in fostering regional stability and actively lobbying within the European People's Party to generate political support for Croatia's Euro-Atlantic integration. But there were political differences between PM Sanader on the right and President Mesic on the left. In contrast to Sanader's unwavering focus on bringing Croatia into the EU and NATO, Mesic's unique brand of populism harkened back to the non-aligned movement of Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, focusing his foreign policy efforts on places like Libya, Syria, and Iran. Despite limited constitutional powers, President Mesic serves as the moral tiller of the nation, often setting the political agenda for the general public.
One of the EU accession requirements is for Croatia to demonstrate full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). One of the central cases associated with this requirement involved former General Ante Gotovina, wanted on charges of war crimes committed in the aftermath of the 1995 liberation of territory occupied by rebel Serbs. The 2005 start of Croatia's EU accession talks had been blocked for seven months due to then-Chief Prosecutor for ICTY Carla Del Ponte's assessment that Croatia was not making sufficient efforts to capture ICTY indictee, Ante Gotovina, whom many Croatians characterized as a "national hero."
A fugitive from justice since 2002, Gotovina was arrested in December 2005 by Spanish authorities in the Canary Islands, partially as a result of intelligence information provided by the Croatian Government. Croatia’s ICTY cooperation had been assessed, in part, based on its ability to track down missing documents requested by the ICTY for use in the prosecution of Gotovina. The ICTY announced a verdict in the case, which included two other Croatian generals, on April 15, 2011. Judges at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, who were found guilty of crimes including murder, persecution and plunder. Gotovina was sentenced to a single sentence of 24 years of imprisonment Markac was given 18 years and a third defendant, Ivan Cermak, was found not guilty.
In May 2003, the United States joined Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia to sign the Adriatic Charter, in which the three NATO aspirants pledged their commitment to NATO values and their cooperative efforts to further their collective NATO aspirations. In 2008, the Adriatic Charter expanded to include two new countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Croatia has been a member of the United Nations since 1992, and contributes troops to a number of UN operations, including those in the Golan Heights, Cyprus, Sudan, Liberia, Lebanon, Western Sahara, and Kashmir. In December 2009, Croatia ended a 2-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Croatia also contributes troops to support NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) and since 2003 has participated in the International Stabilization Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The Croatian Parliament in December 2010 approved raising the ceiling on the number of soldiers in Afghanistan to 350. Croatia is a member of the World Trade Organization and the Central European Free Trade Organization.
Croatia is also active in the region, particularly in supporting its neighbors' Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Croatia has made progress on dealing with a number of post-conflict issues. Some of these, such as the status of refugees displaced during the 1991-95 war and determining the fate of missing persons from the war, remain key issues influencing Croatia’s relations with its neighbors.
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