Foreign relations of Croatia

From Academic Kids



Croatian foreign policy has focused on greater Euro-Atlantic integration, mainly entering the European Union and NATO. In order to gain access to European and trans-Atlantic institutions, it has had to undo many negative effects of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war that ensued, and improve and maintain good relations with its neighbors.

Key issues over the last decade have been the implementation of the Dayton Accords and the Erdut Agreement, nondiscriminatory facilitation of the return of refugees and displaced persons from the 1991-95 war including property restitution for ethnic Serbs, resolution of border disputes with Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro, and general democratization.

Croatia has had an uneven record in these areas between 1996 and 1999 during the right-wing HDZ government, inhibiting its relations with European Union and the U.S. Improvement in these areas severely hindered the advance of Croatia's prospects for further Euro-Atlantic integration. Progress in the areas of Dayton, Erdut, and refugee returns were evident in 1998, but progress was slow and required intensive international engagement.

Croatia's unsatisfactory performance implementing broader democratic reforms in 1998 raised questions about the ruling party's commitment to basic democratic principles and norms. Areas of concern included restrictions on freedom of speech, one-party control of public TV and radio, repression of independent media, unfair electoral regulations, a judiciary that is not fully independent, and lack of human and civil rights protection.

A center-left coalition government was elected in early 2000. The SDP-led government slowly relinquished control over public media companies and did not interfere with freedom of speech and independent media, though it didn't complete the process of making the Croatian Radiotelevision independent. Judiciary reforms remained a pending issue as well.

Major Croatian advances in foreign relations during this period have included:

The EU application was the last major international undertaking of the Račan government, which submitted a 7,000-page report in reply to the questionnaire by the European Commission.

Foreign relations were severely impacted by the government's hesitance and stalling of the extradition of Croatian general Janko Bobetko to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and inability to take general Ante Gotovina into custody for questioning by the Court.

Refugee returns accelerated since 1999, reached a peak in 2000, but then slightly decreased in 2001 and 2002. The OSCE mission in Croatia has continued to monitor the return of refugees and is still recording civil rights violations. Croatian Serbs continue to have problems with restitution of property and acceptance to the reconstruction assistance programs. Combined with lacking economic opportunities in the rural areas of former Krajina, the return process is highly troubled.

At the time of Croatia's application to the European Union, three EU countries were yet to ratify the Stabilization and Association Agreement: United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy.

The new Sanader government repeated the assurances that Croatia will fulfill the missing political obligations, and expedited the extradition of several ICTY indictees.

The European Commission replied to the answers of the questionnaire sent to Croatia on April 20, 2004 with a positive opinion. The country was finally accepted as EU candidate in July 2004. Italy and Britain ratified the SA agreement shortly thereafter, while the ten EU countries that were admitted to membership that year ratified it en masse on a European Summit.

In December 2004, the EU leaders announced that accession negotiations with Croatia would start on March 17, 2005 provided that Croatian government cooperates fully with the ICTY. The main issue, the flight of general Gotovina, however, remained unsolved and despite the agreement on an accession negotiation framework, the negotiations did not begin in March 2005. The result of the vote to begin negotiations in the EU Council was 8 countries "For", 10 "Against" and 7 "Neutral".

Current events

The main objective of the Croatian foreign policy is admittance to the European Union. It applied in 2003, and is hoping to start negotiations in 2005. The stated goal is to join Bulgaria and Romania in the planned expansion of the Union in 2007.

Government officials in charge of foreign policy include the Minister of Foreign Affairs, currently Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, and the President of the Republic, currently Stjepan Mesić.

As of 2004, Croatia has diplomatic missions in 124 locations around the world, including two permanent missions to the United Nations. A complete listing of Croatian embassies in foreign countries is available at "Diplomatic Missions and Consular Offices (" at the web site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

International organizations

Republic of Croatia participates in the following international organizations:


Foreign support

Croatia receives support from donor programs of:

Between 1991 and 2003, the EBRD had directly invested a total of 1,212,039,000 EUR into projects in Croatia.

In 1998, U.S. support to Croatia came through the Southeastern European Economic Development Program (SEED), whose funding in Croatia totaled $23.25 million. More than half of that money was used to fund programs encouraging sustainable returns of refugees and displaced persons. About one-third of the assistance was used for democratization efforts, and another 5% funded financial sector restructuring.

In 2003, USAID considered Croatia to be on a "glide path for graduation" along with Bulgaria. Its 2002/2003/2004 funding includes around $10 million for economic development, up to $5 million for the development of democratic institutions, about $5 million for the return of population affected by war and between 2 and 3 million dollars for the "mitigation of adverse social conditions and trends". A rising amount of funding is given to cross-cutting programs in anti-corruption, a bit under one million dollars.

The European Commission has proposed to assist Croatia's efforts to join the European Union with 245 million euros from PHARE, ISPA and SAPARD aid programs over the course of 2005 and 2006.

International disputes

Relations with neighboring states have normalized somewhat since the breakup of Yugoslavia. Work has begun — bilaterally and within the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe since 1999 — on political and economic cooperation in the region.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Discussions continue between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on various sections of the border, the longest border with another country for each of these countries.

Sections of the Una river and villages at the base of Mount Plješevica are cadastrally part of Croatia, while some are part of Bosnia, which causes an excessive number of border crossings on a single route and impedes any serious development in the region. The Zagreb-Bihać-Split railway line is still closed for major traffic due to this issue.

The border on the Sava river between Hrvatska Kostajnica on the northern, Croatian side of the river, and Bosanska Kostajnica on the southern, Bosnian side, is also being discussed. A river island between the two towns cadastrally belongs to Croatia but is controlled by Bosnia. The countries have been discussing the building of an international border crossing on the said river island.

The Herzegovinian municipality of Neum in the south makes the southernmost part of Croatia an exclave and the two countries are negotiating special transit rules through Neum to compensate for that.


Croatia and Slovenia have several land and maritime boundary disputes.

Slovenia claims the water border in the bay of Piran/Savudrija does not go through the middle of the bay, while Croatia claims it does. This is causing problems for the fishermen due to undefined area where the naval police of each country may patrol.

Related to the border in the said bay is Slovenian access to international waters which would require Croatia to cede at least some of its territorial waters to the west of Umag.

A small number of cadastral units on the right-hand side of the river Dragonja in Istria have remained under Croatian jurisdiction after the river was re-routed after the Second World War. This area is located near the Sečovlje-Plovanija official border crossing point (set up by an interim agreement of the two countries in the 1990s).

The area around the peak of the Žumberak/Gorjanci mountain is cadastrally assigned partly to Slovenia (the Trdinov vrh area) and partly to Croatia (the Sveta Gera area). However, an old Yugoslav People's Army barracks building on the Croatian part of the border is still occupied by a small number of Slovenian army personnel.

Parliamentarians are far from ratifying an agreement signed by the then prime ministers Drnovšek and Račan, which would have ceded most of the Bay of Piran and maritime access to Slovenia and several villages to Croatia.

Slovenia is disputing Croatia's claim to establish an economic section of the Adriatic, requiring direct access to the international waters. Croatia decided to pursue a policy of stricter control over fishing and other economic use of the sea. This policy is in place since late 2004 but excludes the EU countries (namely, Slovenia and Italy).

Serbia and Montenegro

In late 2002, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro adopted an interim agreement to settle the disputed Prevlaka peninsula at the entrance of the Bay of Kotor, allowing the withdrawal of the UN monitoring mission. Full demilitarization of the area is pending.

Croatia has also protested Serbia's deployment of military forces to guard the border in the north (with Vojvodina), but has accepted the Serbian explanation that it is not done by police units due to lack of funding for border police reorganization.

Due to the meandering of the Danube, the eastern border of Baranja according to cadastral delineation is not followed, as each country controls territory on their side of the main river flow. Further south, near Vukovar and near Šarengrad, there are two river islands that are nearer to the Serbian side of the river and have thus been controlled by the Yugoslav army ever since the secession, also contrary to the cadastre records.


Croatia and Italy continue to debate bilateral property and ethnic minority rights issues stemming from border changes after the Second World War.

Illicit drugs

Croatia is a transit point along the Balkan route for Southwest Asian heroin to Western Europe.

It has also been used as a minor transit point for maritime shipments of South American cocaine bound for Western Europe.

External links


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