Eleven years after its parliament adopted a decision to secede from Yugoslavia and become a sovereign state, Croatia is celebrating its first Independence Day.
(Various sources - 08/10/02)
Croatia is celebrating its first Independence Day on Tuesday (8 October), following a move last year to declare the date a national holiday. The commemoration comes more than 11 years after parliament adopted a decision to secede from Yugoslavia and become a sovereign state.
On 25 June 1991, both Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. Weeks later, Croatia adopted a declaration setting a three-month moratorium on moves towards effective independence. The step was taken at the request of the European Community [later renamed the European Union], which was concerned about the consequences of the breakaway and insisted that the Yugoslav crisis be resolved by peaceful means. As the moratorium expired, Croatia's Parliament convened on 8 October 1991 and, following a discussion of the political and security situation in the republic, confirmed its decision to sever state and legal relations with Yugoslavia.
Fighting between Serbs and Croats had already erupted in July. By December 1991, when UN envoy Cyrus Vance negotiated a lasting truce, about one-third of Croatia's territory had fallen under Yugoslav control. New hostilities broke out in 1993. A ceasefire with Serb rebels in the self-declared republic of Krajina was reached in the spring of 1994. Most of the territories that had come under Serb control were reoccupied by Croatian forces in 1995. Meanwhile, Croatia was involved in the war in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from 1992 to 1995. The war ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in December 1995 by the presidents of the three warring republics - Croatia's Franjo Tudjman, Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and BiH's Alija Izetbegovic.
Last autumn, Croatia's Parliament supported a motion by deputy Ivo Skrabalo to celebrate 8 October as Independence Day and add it to the calendar of national holidays.
"We have an independent state and nothing can jeopardise it any more," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said in a pre-released Independence Day message. "The Republic of Croatia today is a recognised and respected partner, open to co-operation and ready to integrate with a united Europe."
By the end of 1992, Croatia was recognised as an independent state by most countries. Yugoslavia followed suit in August 1996, and the following month, the two established diplomatic relations. Croatia and Yugoslavia have since signed more than 20 agreements. The latest, dated 8 May 2002, involves co-operation in the fight against organised crime, drug trafficking, terrorism and other criminal activities.
"Today, the Republic of Croatia faces the task of building its economy and creating conditions for development, with every citizen, regardless of nationality, religion, sex or view of life, being able to live a life worthy of free men and fully equal to all other citizens," Croatian news agency HINA quoted the president as saying.
In 1992, Croatia was admitted to the UN and the OSCE. It has since joined other major international structures and organisations including the IMF, the World Bank and the Council of Europe, and takes part in various regional and international initiatives.
The country views EU and NATO integration as a chief priority. On 29 October 2001, Croatia signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, giving it privileged access to EU markets while obliging it to adapt its legislation and administration to EU standards. Croatia's integration into Europe is conditional upon increased co-operation with its Balkan neighbours. Some five months earlier, it was admitted to NATO's Partnership for Peace programme.