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Foreign relations of Croatia

Croatian foreign policy has focused on gaining access to European and transatlantic institutions, maintaining good relations with its neighbors, and securing close ties with the United States. Relations with the U.S. and the European Union (EU) focus on implementation of the Dayton Accords, Erdut Agreement, ethnic reconciliation, nondiscriminatory facilitation of the return of refugees and displaced persons, and democratization. Croatia has had an uneven record in these areas since 1996, inhibiting its relations with the U.S. and Europe. Improvement in these areas will be necessary to advance 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 requires intensive international engagement. Thus far, refugee returns have accelerated in 1999. However, unsatisfactory performance, in 1998, in implementing broader democratic reforms still raises questions about the ruling party's commitment to basic democratic principles and norms. Areas that are of concern today include 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.

Relations with neighboring states have normalized somewhat since the breakup of Yugoslavia. Work has begun--bilaterally and within the new Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe--on political and economic cooperation in the region. Outstanding issues with neighboring countries include border disputes with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Montenegro.

U.S. support to Croatia comes through the Southeastern European Economic Development Program (SEED). In 1998, SEED 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.

Disputes - international: Eastern Slavonia[?], which was held by ethnic Serbs during the ethnic conflict between the Croats and the Serbs, was returned to Croatian control by the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia on 15 January 1998; Croatia and Italy made progress toward resolving a bilateral issue dating from World War II over property and ethnic minority rights; significant progress has been made with Slovenia toward resolving a maritime border dispute over direct access to the sea in the Adriatic; Montenegro is disputing Croatia's claim to the Prevlaka Peninsula[?] in southern Croatia because it controls the entrance to Boka Kotorska[?] in Montenegro; Prevlaka is currently under observation by the UN Military Observer Mission in Prevlaka (UNMOP)

Illicit drugs: transit point along the Balkan[?] route for Southwest Asian heroin to Western Europe; a minor transit point for maritime shipments of South American cocaine bound for Western Europe

See also : Croatia

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