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 Democracy.
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.