Croatia. According to
CountryAAH, the total population in Croatia is 4,105,278 people in 2020.
The minority government that took office at the
end of 2003 showed promising cooperation with the UN
Criminal Tribunal by handing over two prosecuted retired
generals in March. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader had assured
that his party, the formerly prominent nationalist HDZ,
would now invest in meeting the Western powers and handing
out suspected war criminals. Both Generals Ivan Čermak and
Mladen Markač were charged with abuses against ethnic Serbs
in connection with the withdrawal of the Krajina area by
Croatian troops in 1995. They pleaded not guilty to the
charges when they appealed to the Hague Court.
The willingness to cooperate paid dividends when the EU
decided in June to adopt Croatia as a candidate country and to
start the membership negotiations in 2005. However, no date
for membership was set and the EU reserved the right to
suspend the democratic and human rights negotiations in the
country. EU leaders stressed that the Croats must continue
to cooperate with the UN tribunal, improve the position of
minority groups and enable Serbian refugees to return to the
country. The Chief Prosecutor General Carla del Ponte also
praised K's cooperation, but stressed that General Ante
Gotovina - number three on the list of wanted people from
the 1990s war in the Balkans - must also be arrested.
During the year, Serbia and Montenegro's President
Svetozar Marović visited K. and Prime Minister Sanader later
traveled to Belgrade. It was the first visits of this kind
since the war years and another sign of normalization in the
region. Marović took the opportunity to congratulate K. on
her newly acquired status as a candidate country in the EU.
In July 2001, the nationalist right-wing accused Prime
Minister Ivica Racan of treason after responding to a
request from the International Criminal Court in The Hague
for extradition of Generals Ademia and Gotovina accused of
war crimes. But the Prime Minister survived a vote of no
confidence in Parliament. At the same time, Croatia
delivered Orthodox icons back to Serbia, which had been
robbed by the Croatian army 10 years earlier when it entered
the city of Vukovar.
In November 2003, the right-wing nationalist alliance,
Croatia's Democratic Union, won over the center-left
coalition led by former Prime Minister Ivica Racan. The
Union and its two alliance parties received 75 of the 140
seats in Parliament against the 63 seats of the Social
The country's new leader, Ivo Sanader, declared that he
recognized the country's international obligations,
including cooperation with the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The
Hague. The election campaign had mainly focused on Croatia's
desire to join NATO in 2006 and in the EU in 2007.
In March 2004, two retired Croatian generals, Mladen
Markac and Ivan Cermak, were charged with war crimes
tribunals in The Hague with crimes against humanity in the
form of the killing of Croatian Serbs during the war in
Croatia in 1995. Both generals pleaded not guilty.
In June, the Croatian leader, Milan Babi, was sentenced
to 13 years in prison by the Hague Court for his
participation in crimes against Serbs in the self-proclaimed
Krajina Republic in 1990 while prime minister. Babi was
declared guilty of conducting repeated "ethnic cleansing".
Acc. Chairman Alphons Orie blamed Babi for killing over 200
civilians - including women and children - and for
imprisoning hundreds of civilians in inhumane conditions.
Mesic received a strong vote of confidence during the
January 2005 presidential election. He was close to winning
the first round, gaining 49% of the vote. In the second
round, the Nationalist HDZ Party candidate, Deputy Prime
Minister Jadranka Kosor beat 66% against 34. Although both
candidates' campaigns were almost identical in form and
content: improving the economy, developing good relations
with neighboring countries and joining the EU, then it was
Mesic who got the backing of the center parties' candidates.