MINELRES: MRG: Nationalist election victory leaves Croatia's minorities concerned

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Sat Nov 29 17:34:21 2003

Original sender: Greek Helsinki Monitor <office@greekhelsinki.gr>)

Minority Rights Group International 

Press Release           28 November 2003                
                        For immediate release

Nationalist election victory leaves Croatia's minorities concerned 

The election victory of Croatia's nationalist centre-right party, the
HDZ or Croatian Democratic Union has caused concern amongst minority
groups in the country. As party leader and prime-minister elect, Ivo
Sanader, begins the process of forming a coalition government, question
marks remain over the HDZ's commitment to democratic values and its
choice of coalition partners. While the HDZ claims to have reformed
since the days of Franjo Tudjman, a key test of this claim will be its
willingness to implement minority rights standards. Mr Sanader has made
assurances that the new government will not include the extreme right
HSP party as was feared by minorities and other observers, possibly in
favour of the conservative Peasants Party (HSS). 

Minority organizations in Croatia have renewed their petitions to the
new government to respect minority rights and work toward full
implementation of the Constitutional Law on the Rights of National
Minorities (CLNM). However, as was recently highlighted in a Minority
Rights Group International (MRG) report [1], poor progress has been made
on a number of important issues in the past, including the return of
refugees and issues regarding property rights and compensation. While Mr
Sanader has publicly called on refugees to return, Serb minority groups
have highlighted the need for guarantees in order for them to do so
without fear of intimidation, and with adequate public provisions in
regard to their economic, social and cultural rights. Criticism of the
outgoing government by MRG highlighted delays and 'half-measures' in
implementation of the CLNM in order to appease both the international
community, minorities and the political right.   

Minority Serb participation in the new government has been called into
question by one of three Serbian minority MPs, Milorad Pupovac, who
today declared that his party, the SDSS or Independent Democratic
Serbian Party, is only willing to support negotiations with left
oriented parties. Although the possibility of alliance with the extreme
right HSP seems to have been ruled out, in part due to international
pressure, some Serb leaders question the degree of real influence they
would be able to exert on the HDZ. It is feared that sharing power could
amount to tokenism, as occurred under the leadership of Franjo Tudjman,
notorious for 'Tudjman's Serbs' who were allowed little practical
influence. Minorities may feel that greater influence can be exerted
externally in active opposition to unfavourable policies of the new
government. Despite guaranteed representation in the Croatian parliament
under the CLNM, other minority groups within Croatia including Roma may
feel marginalized within the current uncertain political negotiatians.

The international community continues to have an important role to play
in the political and security spheres in Croatia, where there is still
an OSCE presence. Potential EU accession is seen by some as a possible
bargaining tool in regard to minority rights, but only as long as the EU
position remains strict with regard to accession criteria and standards
of demonstrable implementation of minority rights. The EU is urged to
monitor closely the protection of minorities, including implementation
of the Constitutional Law and actual progress made towards sustainable
return. Some believe that the international dimension may prove a
significant factor, since Mr Sanader and the HDZ are keen to achieve an
international image as a democratic political force, capable of leading
Croatia into into the EU by 2007.    

Minority Rights Group International reiterates its call to the new
coalition Croatian government, with the assistance and cooperation of
the international community, to devise and implement a well-financed
programme, with clear, measurable targets, for the safe return of
minority communities to Croatia. MRG has urged the EU to ensure that
minority rights are an integral part of the partnership agreement with
Croatia in adherence to the Copenhagen criteria on minority protection
when considering Croatia's accession. A strategy to promote inter-ethnic
harmony is essential and should include major public education and
information initiatives to address continuing prejudice and

Notes for editors: 

1. Minorities in Croatia. Edited by Minority Rights Group International
(MRG). October 2003. ISBN 1 904584 101. This MRG briefing is available
to download for MRG's website at:

For interviews or further information please contact 
the Press Office at MRG on 020 7978 9498 or 07734768223 (mobile). 

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental
organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and
linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote
cooperation and understanding between communities.


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