According to SHOPAREVIEW, the situation in the Yugoslav territories, after the declarations of independence of Slovenia and Croatia (June 1991), worsened and worsened further following the recognition by the EEC (15 January 1992) of the two new sovereign states. Despite the international community’s attempts at mediation, the objectives of the Croatian, Serbian and Muslim leaderships remained divergent, while the tests of strength between Zagreb and Belgrade continued: a climate of terror and intimidation reigned in many parts of the territories, also fueled by the different raids that the Croatian army, between the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993, carried out in the ‘protected areas’ in Krajina and western Slavonia.
In these areas and in Eastern Slavonia (controlled by the Serbian militias) since March 1992 there were 14 located. 000 blue helmets. Sent by the UN as peacekeeping forces, they were intended to oversee the ceasefire decreed since the beginning of January 1992. A new ceasefire between the Republic of Croatia and the Serbian Republic of Krajina, however repeatedly violated as the previous one, was reached on March 29, 1994.thanks to the joint efforts of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the International Conference for the former Yugoslavia. At that time the international community found itself having to manage the difficult situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia appeared as a minor problem on the agenda of international organizations, even if the threat of the use of force for the reintegration of the territories conquered by the Serbs were very frequent in the Croatian press and propaganda. The tension continued to be high as the working group made up of the USA, Great Britain, Germany and Russia, called Z 4 (Zagreb 4), negotiated (December 1994) an economic agreement between the Serbian Republic of Krajina and Croatia; on the basis of it, some important installations of common interest were reopened, such as the Zagreb-Lipovac (Belgrade) motorway, the Adria oil pipeline from Rijeka to Sisak and the Obrovac hydroelectric plant. In addition to this, the group proposed a political settlement, known as ‘plan Z 4 ‘, based on the attribution of broad autonomy to the Serbian Krajina within the Republic of Croatia, including the possibility of having its own currency and a own flag. The Z plane 4he was rejected by both the Croatian government and the Croatian Serbs. For the first, the proposal was unacceptable because it threatened the sovereignty of the Croatian state over a part of its territory, encouraging the already strong regionalist pressures in Istria, Dalmatia and Slavonia. For the latter, however, the plan would have thwarted the reunification efforts with the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the first step to establish the birth of Greater Serbia.
Furthermore, in April-May 1995, after months of clashes along the route of the Zagreb-Lipovac highway, the Croatian army launched an offensive against the secessionist forces in Western Slavonia. The victorious action, known as Operation Flash, prompted the Croatian leadership to pursue the reconquest of the Krajina, a stronghold of the Serbian rebels, which took place in a second phase. In fact, on 3 August 1995, Croatian troops launched Operation Oluja. The clashes continued until 7 August, ending with the complete defeat of the Krajina Serbs and generating, according to UN sources, a massive exodus of 170. 000 Serbs to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Krajina was literally emptied. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ was accompanied by the elimination of many remaining elderly people and the destruction, according to UN sources, of 73% of homes. Two of the three ‘protected areas’ had thus been recaptured by the Croatian military forces. The third, Eastern Slavonia, remained under the control of the local Serbian authorities. Croatia was recalled several times by the international community to respect the right of the local Serbian population to live in the region, to leave or to return there: the negotiations however proceeded slowly and the tension continued to grow. At the beginning of November, President F. Tudjman went to the United States, where he signed, together with the Bosnian and Serbian presidents, A. Izetbegović and S. Milošević, the Dayton Agreements for Bosnia and Herzegovina (see in this Appendix), imposed by the United States and ratified in Paris on December 14, 1995. To complete these, the Erdut Agreement (named after the city in Eastern Slavonia where the meeting took place) was signed between local Serbs and Croats, which placed Eastern Slavonia under the authority of the United Nations for a period not more than two years, with the aim of facilitating the peaceful integration of the region into Croatian territory. A development of this agreement then resulted, in August 1996, with the signing, by presidents Tudjman and Milošević, who met in Athens, of an agreement for the normalization of relations between Zagreb and Belgrade. In 1996 moreover, Croatia, despite not having complied with the requests for respect for minorities, freedom of the press and opposition, became a member of the Council of Europe. The acquisition of the new status did not prevent Tudjman from continuing his aggressive policy towards neighboring countries, so that, between 1996 and 1997, relations with the West (Washington and the EU) also deteriorated, as Croatia it hindered and slowed down the return of Serbian refugees to Western Slavonia and Krajina, not respecting the Dayton Accords even for the identification of war criminals.
In 1995 Tudjman decided to carry out the parliamentary elections earlier.
In the October elections, however, a large part of the voters spoke out against the policy of Tudjman and his party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ, Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica), which reached 45.2 % of the votes on a national scale, while the coalition consists of the Istrian democratic Party and the peasants with the popular, Christian Union and the Party of Slavonia-Baranja, gained 18.3 %, the social-liberal ‘s 11, 6 % and the social democratic Party (former communist) on 8, 9%. Abstention was massive throughout the country and in Istria and Dalmatia the HDZ was defeated by regionalist-inspired parties. Despite the diminished consensus, Tudjman kept his political choices unchanged. Freedom of the press continued to be hindered; on the administrative side, the županije (regions), lacking real autonomy as they were, underwent increasing centralizing pressure from the government. This situation weighed heavily in those regions, such as Istria, Dalmatia, the Fiumano and Medjumurje, characterized by a multicultural social fabric, where the pushes towards multi-ethnic coexistence and the strengthening of local autonomy remained strong.
The presidential elections of June 1997 reconfirmed Tudjman at the head of the nation for the third time, but the compactness of the HDZ, at the end of the same year, crumbled. To undermine the unity of the party contributed, among other things, the grueling tug-of-war in the Chambers over the bill by Minister L. Vokić which introduced, in the form of a circular, severe restrictions on access to schools run by minorities., a proposal opposed, as well as by the opposition, by the moderate wing of the HDZ. Political tensions escalated after the amendment to the constitutional preamble, approved on December 12, 1997, where this referred to minorities, eliminating Slovenian and Muslim minorities from the list. This choice had serious internal repercussions, as well as in the relations between Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and increased the already existing frictions.
The open issues with Slovenia concerned monetary, economic and trade disputes, such as the dispute over the sovereignty over the waters of the Gulf of Piran (Slovenia’s access to the sea), the Slovenian refusal to recognize the monetary deposits of Croatian citizens and the future of the Krško nuclear power plant. With Bosnia and Herzegovina the dispute concerned the use of the Croatian port of Ploce, access of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Adriatic, and the right of transit of the Croatia through Neum, a small Bosnian village on the Adriatic coast. Even after the signing of an agreement on the subject (September 1998), relations between the two countries remained far from effective stabilization; Tudjman had been offering since 1992its support for Bosnian Croats engaged in the effort to create their own state and among Zagreb’s objectives remained that of securing control of a large part of Bosnia (in particular of Herzegovina) for a future constitution of ‘Greater Croatia’. However, this policy had suffered the repercussions of the death of Defense Minister G. Šušak, who at the time was in favor of the partition of Bosnia and the annexation of the areas inhabited by the Bosnian Croats to the Croatian Republic. The result was an acceleration of the internal struggle within the HDZ which deepened the uncertainties that weighed both on the future of Croatian-Bosnian relations and on the developments of Croatian internal politics.
In the economic field, the situation did not appear better, despite official sources drawing a reassuring picture of the Croatian economic and financial conditions. This position clashed, however, with that presented by non-governmental sources which pointed out, for example, how the privatization process, the conclusion of which had been announced by Minister I. Penić for the end of 1997, was still in progress. in 1998. After the recession and the war, the economy had returned to growth thanks to the tourism and construction sectors, while industrial production remained unsatisfactory. In 1998, social tensions increased. The introduction, the 1st January, value added tax became one of the most discussed domestic policy topics. Harsh criticisms were expressed by the Social Democratic Party and by the workers’ associations for the increased cost of living and the deterioration of the social conditions that the new tax had begun to produce in a lame economic system. Many strikes organized by the various categories of workers, despite the government’s attempts to deter. In the months following the restoration of Croatian sovereignty in Eastern Slavonia, on January 15, 1998, international observers also denounced the increasing insecurity of the Serbian community and the inertia of Croatia in respecting the peace agreements.
In 1999 the internal situation of the country, already at its extreme, was aggravated by the conflict in Kosovo, against which President Tudjman never spoke directly for or against, as well as for the NATO air intervention against Yugoslavia. These uncertainties were determined by the effect that the war for Kosovo was also having on Croatia, affecting the prospects of tourism and, therefore, the main source of resources of the economy. The numerous strikes by workers and pensioners, pending the payment of salaries and pensions, the bankruptcies of banks and companies contributed to accentuate the tensions of a country on the eve of new political elections.
With the death of Tudjman, which occurred on December 10, 1999, Croatia found itself facing both the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2000 and the presidential elections sixty days after the death of the president.