VECERNJI LIST: You have recently been quoted quite often as saying that there are many things you wish you could do but can't because your authority has been reduced. Is this perhaps your dissatisfaction due to the position you have been put in by constitutional changes?
MESIC: No, I just wished to explain that there are some things over which I have no influence. My position is different from the one that President had before the constitutional changes and therefore solutions to problems must be searched for with competent authorities. I am aware, however, that there are some people who are interested in even further decreasing my authority through legislative provisions. This just shows how unfamiliar they are with the situation. You cannot decrease presidential authority through laws, nor would this be a good idea at this time. The president must be a firm point in the system in order to avoid that problems be solved one day outside the competent institutions.
People over here are still learning about democracy and the rule of law. People continue to believe their problems can be solved through "connections at the top" and not through institutions. For this reason, citizens often come to me with employment, education or housing problems. The better the functioning of the legal state, the fewer visitors there will be to my office.
Do you believe you have realized your wish to be a corrective, a firm point of the system?
I believe I have. I also believe that the relation is balanced and that constitutional changes have finalized the three-partite division of authority. What are your relations with Ivica Racan? Are you afraid of his powers as Prime Minister?
I am not afraid of anyone, not even the Government or the Prime Minister. But I fear we are solving problems too slowly. Previously, we could claim that regulations were to blame for our problems, yet now the regulations are in order and there is no justification for our slowness in solving problems.
The Law on National Security is soon to be adopted and yet it seems that several variations of the law have appeared.
I think a compromise solution will be found and it lies in the Constitution. The Constitution states that the President guides the intelligence services and that does not mean merely allowing several presidential advisers to sit at a few meetings. One institution must remain to guide the analysis and the analytical control mechanisms. The Government and the President can act here by appointing top people to head such institutions. I believe we will have to search for a solution along these lines.
What if you fail to reach a compromise solution?
The worst solution would be to seek an opinion of the Constitutional Court, but if we fail to reach an agreement, we shall have to do that. And no one should be angry because of that. In a state with the rule of law, problems can also be resolved in that manner. However, I hope we shall reach an agreement. The same applies to the military, if we do not want to raise tensions. I think that the solution is not to increase tensions but to seek a mutually acceptable solution. It is true that in some versions the Defense Minister is in the military command chain but can be dismissed or replaced by the president as the commander in chief. We cannot place the Defense Minister within the military command chain if he is not responsible to anyone. That is nonsensical and a solution cannot be reached like that.
Defense Minister Rados had a rather sharp reactions to the remarks by your advisor General Agotic. Will you talk to Rados?
We have sent numerous proposals regarding how the proposed law can be improved, but most of our proposals were either rejected or even not considered. I regret that and believe that a team should sit together and work on the law, instead of sulking because of attempts to assist in the writing of legislation. It does not make sense to be spiteful. Such behavior is contrary to the democratic sphere of agreement and thinking.
A professional army does not exclude the possibility of general conscription. However, we must be aware that all are equal with respect to law, instead of making arbitrary decisions about recruitment in case there are not enough professional soldiers. I think that the tendency to reduce the mandatory military service, while maintaining the military education of the population, should be supported. We must not allow the situation in which the young population does not know how to react in case it is necessary to defend the homeland.
How do you evaluate the latest situation in B-H, particularly the moves of Ante Jelavic?
I am surprised that Ante Jelavic is sticking to this politics of his, which makes no sense. It is necessary to communicate with the international community, to determine rules for all, and this through institutions and to ask for help from the international community in this task. By constant accusations against the international community and confrontations with it, not a single problem will be solved. I look upon Ante Jelavic in the way I once looked upon Mate Boban. At a time when the Croats in B-H had Prime Minister Jura Pelivan, Defence Minister Jerko Doka, the governor of the National Bank, five Croatian ministers and 300 professors and senior lecturers at the Sarajevo University, in Grude a decision was made according to which all Croats had to leave their government jobs or be considered traitors. Only a few Croats remained in their jobs in Sarajevo after that and they were proclaimed traitors. When thhe Dayton Agreement was signed and when they realized Boban's politics had failed, the same people who had herded the Croats out of Sarajevo started yelling that there were no Croats in government jobs in Sarajevo. Now almost the same is happening again. They want the Croats to leave the army, the police, the customs, all the institutions and when the time comes for the Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats to start building B-H, they will claim how there are no Croats in any institutions. Therefore, a type of politics which failed before is now being implemented again and this is a very dangerous situation for the Croats of B-H.
What do you believe the international community will do now?
It must enable the functioning of the state institutions and trace the money. The whole mess in B-H was in fact caused by the attempt to stop the money being traced: where it came from and where it went.
Have you had any contacts with Petritsch?
No, but Jelavic did accuse me of saying something to Petritsch which is not true as I have never spoken to him.
The coalition government has proved itself to be a cumbersome element in the functioning of the Government. There is talk of early elections, some are threatening to leave the coalition, the others are already waving them goodbye.
I believe that early elections would not bring about a significant change in the balance of power. It would remain almost the same with some small modifications. It would, however, be necessary to undertake some measures to ensure that Croatia became recognizable in the world and desirable for investors. We need foreign capital to set in motion our economy and too little has been done to trace the money that was taken out of Croatia. We are too involved in the past yet we should start thinking like ordinary people who are not interested in high politics and European integration, but how to survive. People who are the decision-makers in Croatia should bear this in mind, yet in debates in the Parliament you rarely hear these issues. There are those who are burdened with solving the problems of our neighbors so that we can hear how blockades of Croatian roads are being prepared in protest of the actions of the international community in B-H. That means that there are some who would like to see the failure of the upcoming tourist season. Because of their narrow and personal interests, they are willing to do something that would be damaging to Croatia.
Are you getting ready to visit Macedonia or Kosovo in the near future?
No, I am not. I have been invited by individuals and political parties when the conflict started, but accepted their invitation only under the condition that the government, Parliament and the president of Macedonia also give their agreement. Without consensus that would not make sense, although the occasion had nothing to do with politics - a meeting of the International Olympic Committee, which was supposed to be attended by Juan Samaranch, and Milan Kucan and I were also invited. However, some used that for a campaign against me and some journalists were rather brutal in that and used, especially in Macedonia, lies. But, that is not my problem.
I do not owe anything to anyone and no one can buy me. No lobbies financed my election campaign. My campaign cost 3.2 million Kunas, most of that was contributed by Klariko and that is public knowledge, while the rest was contributed by individuals who requested to be anonymous. They neither demand anything from me, nor could I give them anything. These individuals supported my program, and I did not inquire about ethnic origin of anyone of those who supported me.
Ukraine is facing expulsion from the Council of Europe and new protests against president Leonid Kuchma are expected, but you announced that you will travel to Ukraine in early May?
That visit has been planned for a while, but the exact date still hasn't been agreed. In this case, as regarding all other visits to other states, we shall take into account benefits for Croatia coming from mutual cooperation, as well as the international environment. The analysis of those two factors will assist us to select in this case, naturally in agreement with the Ukrainian side, a time that would be best for my visit.
Is it true that the government has advised you against traveling to Ukraine and that you have ignored their advice?
I think that I have already answered that question.
You have made plans to visit Israel at the end of October.
I spoke to former Prime Minister Barak in New York but we did not agree on a date. Now this visit has been scheduled for October 30.
You meet many foreign business men, but it seems that foreign investors are not too keen to invest in Croatia. What is the reason for this?
I would not quite agree with you. My information is different. A Belgian company is opening a malt factory in Nova Gradiska, an Italian firm is negotiating the opening of a factory in Slavonia. The Russians want to engage the Sisak steelworks for the production of seamed cylinders, which will ensure jobs for about 2 thousand people. Many foreigners are interested in investing and this is encouraging news.
Charges have been brought against the Montenegrin attackers on Dubrovnik. Do you have any information as to who has been charged?
What I know from unofficial sources is that Generals Zec, Sudar and some others have been charged. I think this is good for our relations with Montenegro. Only the individualization of guilt can help this. It is necessary to punish those who gave orders for the attacks on Konavle and Dubrovnik and who ordered murder and the destruction of property. It is also necessary to bring to trial the direct perpetrators and I hope Montenegro will do this.
President Kostunica stated that he would not prevent Montenegro from leaving Yugoslavia, but that he hoped it would not happen.
Montenegro has not used its right, as did the other states of the former Yugoslavia, to secede. This must be solved by the citizens of both Serbia and Montenegro in order for the secession to be accomplished peacefully and democratically. Should Montenegro decide to secede and to enter Europe independently, it would, however, still be with Serbia in Europe as no one from these regions can escape and we must all co-operate mutually.
Slobodan Milosevic is reading "War and Peace" in prison. The media are guessing that he will never get to The Hague.
I believe he will. He must answer on three levels. The first is the destruction of the Serbian economy and the cessation of democratic processes. The second is the level of corruption, political liquidation, electoral fraud, etc. The third level is responsibility for violations of international norms and for this he must stand trial in The Hague for the crimes committed in Croatia, B-H and Kosovo and the short war in Slovenia. Milosevic planned the war, he built genocide into it and I am convinced he will get to the Hague.
There is talk that you are looking for sponsors for the five men that have recently been released from a Serbian prison.
Yes, it is true we are trying to help them financially until they find jobs. To spend five years in such a prison, with constant abuse and uncertainty must have been extremely difficult and they do need help.
Has General Stipetic spoken to you about his testimony. Some people claim that you, perhaps unintentionally, put him in that situation?
I had nothing to do with General Stipetic's testimony. As far as I know he defended himself with the truth and thus he defended himself, Croatia and the Homeland War. I am sure he did a good job. However, you cannot change the editorial policy of some paper and the opinions of some journalists. I testified in The Hague at the request of The Hague and because of the law enacted in Tudjman's time. I did not go to The Hague of my own volition. The Tribunal decides whom it will call to testify and I, as a legalist, testified and will testify in the future in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Yugoslav military leaders.
When do you expect to testify about that?
I have already given a statement about that when I testified in the Hague. I explained the basis for my conclusion that the war was planned, and if the investigators again invite me to the Hague on the basis of that statement, I will gladly respond. Not because I am gloating that someone, even Slobodan Milosevic, will be punished, but because I want that the truth be established, and the guilty be punished.
It is true that I haven't talked to Ivica Crnic recently, but we did talk earlier, when the possibility of getting a new president of the Supreme Court was mentioned. At that time he said that he would accept candidacy provided Ramuscak leaves and he did not want to speculate about that while the president of the Supreme Court was still carrying out his duty.
One gets the impression that Ramuscak is also insulted because he had the impression that he had your support?
I believed that Ramuscak had to be independent while performing the duty of the president of the Supreme Court and that no one could meddle in that and I supported him in that sense. However, after getting a proposal from the Justice Ministry, I accepted Crnic as a candidate.
I do not understand why the bishops criticize me so much, but it is interesting that they did not complain when Prcela and that nun sent a baseless and inappropriate, to say the least, letter in which they called for my resignation and for resistance to my policies. That did not strike the bishops as inappropriate and no one in Glas Koncila was of the opinion that that was not an appropriate way to discuss things with the president of the state. Fine, they have the right to do that and I do not deny that. But, now when I have said something against the widespread fake Croatian "patriotism", but also against any other sort of "patriotism", be it Italian or French, they feel incredibly hurt. I think that such discussions between secular and ecclesiastical leaders are unnecessary and only additionally complicate the overall situation. That creates unnecessary confusion among the citizens. We can discuss every unresolved issue in competent institutions, including the public, but those discussion should be based on valid arguments.