Ruled for centuries under the Hapsburg Empire, Croatia is a Southern Slavic state that formed part of the former Yugoslavia until its disintegration at the end of the Cold War. The delicate balance of power binding diverse ethnic and religious groups with historical animosities collapsed as aggressive nationalist politics resurged. In Croatia, ethnic violence between Serbs and Croats over the disputed Krajina territory erupted in a civil war promptly after Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Bosnia-Herzegovina followed suit in 1992, setting off the bloodiest conflict on European soil since WWII. High-ranking Croat, Bosnian and especially Serb officials have been indicted and tried for war crimes.
Lay of the Land:
Once claimed by the Romans and coveted as a trading crossroads, Croatia was settled by Slavic peoples who migrated from the Ukraine around the 6thor 7th century. After it was briefly subsumed in the Ottoman Empire, Croatia was ruled by the Hapsburg monarchy for centuries, finally gaining autonomy in 1868, but remaining under Hungarian authority.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, many saw a pro-Serb bias continue in the West’s policy toward the former Yugoslavia.
Privatization efforts begun in 1991 were interrupted by the war, which severely damaged the economic infrastructure, including the country’s lucrative tourism industry. GDP fell 40.5% between 1989 and 1993, but after 1995 the tourism industry recovered slightly, and then rebounded in 2000. In recent years, foreign investment has grown, and is expected to continue with prospects of EU and NATO membership.
U.S. Private Military Contractors
According to Amnesty International, the main concerns for Croatia concerning human rights have to do with justice for war criminals. Croatia has been urged to end impunity for war crimes by fully cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Human Rights Committee has noted that authorities fail to provide records related to Operation Storm in 1995. They have also left many war crime cases unsolved, with a disproportionate number of these cases relating to Croatian Serbs. The Human Rights Committee has also called on authorities to “prevent and investigate attacks and intimidation of journalists in the country.”
Note: The United States recognized the independence of Croatia on Apr 7, 1992, and established diplomatic relations on Aug 6, 1992. Embassy Zagreb was opened Aug 25, 1992, with Ronald Nietzke as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim
Croatia’s current ambassador to the United States, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was born in Rijeka, Croatia, but attended high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico, before earning her BA in English and Spanish languages and literature at the University of Zagreb, Croatia in 1993. From September 1995 to June 1996 she pursued postgraduate studies in diplomacy, international law, economics and European integration and training at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, Austria. She earned her MA in political science from the University of Zagreb in 2000, and attended George Washington University as a Fulbright scholar from 2002-2003.
The Balkan nation of Croatia, known to most Americans as the homeland of NBA stars like Toni Kukoč and Dražen Petrović, will soon have a new ambassador from the U.S. President Barack Obama nominated career diplomat and current ambassador to Haiti Kenneth H. Merten to be Washington’s next man in Zagreb on February 10, 2012.
James B. Foley was born in Buffalo, New York. He received his B.A. in 1979 from the State University of New York at Fredonia and M.A.L.D. (Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy) in 1984 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and served as vice consul and political officer in Manila, Philippines, and as political officer in Algiers, Algeria. He was a speechwriter and advisor to former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger from 1989 to 1993 and Deputy Director of the Private Office of the NATO Secretary General in Brussels, Belgium, from 1993 to 1996. From 1997 to 2000 he was special assistant to the late Senator Paul Coverdell and served as State Department Deputy Spokesman. He served as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva from 2000 to 2003 and he was United States Ambassador to Haiti from 2003 to 2005. His previous post from 2007 to 2009 was as Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues. He has held his current post as Ambassador to Croatia since September 15, 2009.