- Stjepan Mesić
name = Stjepan Mesić
office = President of Croatia
order = 2nd
18 February 2000
Ivica Račan Ivo Sanader
office2 = Prime Minister of Croatia
order2 = 1st
30 May 1990
24 August 1990
predecessor2 = "Office established"
office3 = President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
order3 = 14th
30 June 1991
06 December 1991
(Office subsequently dissolved)
office4 = Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
order4 = 12th
30 June 1991
06 December 1991
birth_date = birth date and age|1934|12|24|df=y
Orahovica, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
party = HDZ
Stjepan "Stipe" Mesić (born
December 24, 1934) is a Croatian politician. He has been the President of the Republic of Croatiasince 2000. He had previously held the posts of the Prime Minister of Croatia, the final president of Socialist Yugoslavia, Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement, and the president of the Croatian parliament.
Mesić was a deputy in the
Croatian Parliamentin the 1960s, and was then absent from politics until 1990 when he joined the Croatian Democratic Union(HDZ), and was named the Prime Ministerafter HDZ won in the elections. He was elected as the Croatian member of the Yugoslav Federal Presidency where he served first as Vice President and then in 1991 as the last President of the full Yugoslav Federal Presidency.
After Yugoslavia disintegrated, Mesić served as
President of the Croatian Parliamentfrom 1992 to 1994, when he left HDZ over disagreements about Croatian policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With several other members of parliament, he formed a new party - Croatian Independent Democrats(HND). In 1997 the majority of HND members, including Mesić, merged into the Croatian People's Party(HNS).
Franjo Tuđmandied in December 1999, he was elected in two rounds the President of the Republic of Croatiain February 2000. He was re-elected in January 2005 for a second term. As an opposition of Tuđman's personality, relaxed and charming Mesić has many times been voted as the most popular politician in Croatia. [hr icon [http://www.nacional.hr/articles/view/10805/ Nacional: Stjepan Mesić i dalje najpopularniji političar] ] [hr icon [http://www.vjesnik.hr/Html/2005/01/12/Clanak.asp?r=tem&c=3 Vjesnik: Najpopularniji Mesić i HDZ, Vladi prosječno trojka] ] [hr icon [http://ns1.vjesnik.com/Html/2004/02/10/Clanak.asp?r=tem&c=1 Vjesnik: HDZ najpopularnija stranka, Mesić najpozitivniji političar] ] [hr icon [http://www.slobodnadalmacija.hr/20061106/novosti02.asp Slobodna Dalmacija: Dalmacija vjeruje HDZ-u i Mesiću] ]
Stjepan "Stipe" Mesić, commonly shortened to Stipe Mesić, was born in
Orahovica, Kingdom of Yugoslaviato Josip and Magdalena "Mandica" Mesić. After his mother died in 1936, his older sister was sent to their uncle in France, while Stjepan was put in the care of his grandmother Marija until his father was remarried (to Mileva Jović).
The Mesić family spent most of the
Second World Warin refuges in Mount Papukand Orahovica when it was occasionally liberated. In 1945, the family took refuge from the final fighting of the war in Hungary, along with 10,000 other refugees, and subsequently settled in Našice, where Josip Mesić became the chairman of the District council. The family soon moved to Osijek, where Stipe graduated from 4-year elementary school and finished two years of 8-year gymnasium. In 1949, his father was reassigned back to Orahovica, and Stipe continued his education at the gymnasium in Požega. He graduated in 1955 and, as an exemplary student, was admitted to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.
He continued his studies at the Law Faculty at the
University of Zagreb, where he graduated in 1961. Also in 1961, Mesić married Milka Dudundić, an ethnic Serb from Hrvatska Kostajnica, with whom he has two daughters. After graduation, he worked as an intern at the municipal court in Orahovica and the public attorney's office at Našice. He served his compulsory military service in Bilećaand Niš, becoming a reserve officer.
After passing the judicial examination, he was appointed a municipal judge, but soon became embroiled in a scandal when he publicly denounced local politicians for using official vehicles for private purposes. He was nearly expelled from the party over the incident and in 1964 he moved to
Zagrebto work as a manager for the company "Univerzal".
In 1966, he ran as an independent candidate in the election for his municipal council, and defeated two other candidates, one from the Communist Party and the other from the Socialist Union of Working People. In 1967, he became the mayor of Orahovica and a member of the
As mayor, Mesić attempted the building of a private factory in the town, the first private factory in Yugoslavia. However, this was personally denounced by Yugoslav president
Josip Broz Titoas an attempt to silently introduce capitalism, which was illegal according to the then-current constitution.
In 1967, when a group of Croatian intellectuals published the now-famous "Declaration" about the
Croatian language, Mesić publicly denounced it as a diversionary attack against the very foundations of Yugoslavia and called for its authors to be prosecuted by law. However, in the 1970s, Mesić supported the Croatian Springmovement which called for Croatian equality within the Yugoslav Federation on economic, political and cultural level. The government indicted him for "acts of enemy propaganda". The initial trial lasted three days in which 55 witnesses testified, only five against him, but he was sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges that he was a member of Croatian terrorist group [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0D7173BF935A25756C0A967958260&sec=&spon=&&scp=8&sq=Mesic&st=cse New Crisis Grips Yugoslavia Over Rotation of Leadership] , The New York Times, 16 May 1991] . He appealed and the trial was prolonged, but eventually in 1975 he was incarcerated for one year, and served his sentence at the Stara Gradiškaprison.
Return to politics
He was elected again in 1990 as a candidate of the
Croatian Democratic Union(HDZ) in the first multi-party elections in Croatiaafter World War II. He became the general secretary of HDZ and later the Prime Minister of Croatiaand served from May until August 1990. He then resigned to take the post in the Yugoslav Federal Presidency where he served first as Vice-President.
Presidents rotated annually according to republic-province key automatically. When Mesić's turn came to automatically become the President on May 15, 1991, the Serbian incumbent Member Borisav Jović demanded, against all constitutional rules, that an election be held. The members from Serbia and its provinces voted against, and the member from Montenegro abstained, leaving Mesić one vote short of majority [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0D7173BF935A25756C0A967958260&sec=&spon=&&scp=8&sq=Mesic&st=cse] . Under pressure from the international community after the
Ten-Day Warin Slovenia, Mesić was eventually appointed but [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE7DA123DF934A35754C0A967958260&sec=&spon=&&scp=10&sq=Mesic&st=cse] .
Croatiadeclared its complete independence, he returned to Croatiaand resigned from the Presidency. In 1992, he was elected to Parliament and became the President of the Parliament.
In 1994, Mesić left the HDZ to form a new party, the Croatian Independent Democrats ("Hrvatski Nezavisni Demokrati", HND). He opposed the government policy toward
Bosnia and Herzegovina, accusing Franjo Tuđmanof agreeing to carve Bosnia and Herzegovinawith Slobodan Milošević. He also criticized privatization during war and unresolved privatization criminality as war profiteering.
In 1997, he and the majority of his party merged into the
Croatian People's Party("Hrvatska Narodna Stranka" or HNS), where Mesić became an executive vice-president.
Presidency of Croatia
He was elected
President of the Republic of Croatiain the 2000 election after winning the first round and defeating Dražen Budišaof HSLS in the second round. Mesić ran as the joint candidate of the HNS, HSS, LS and IDS. He received 41% of the vote in the first round and 56% in the second round. After becoming president, he stepped down from membership in the HNS.
He heavily criticized former President
Franjo Tuđman's policies as nationalistic and authoritarian, lacking a free media and employing bad economics, while Mesić favored a more liberal approach to opening the Croatian economy to foreign investment.
As President, in September 2000 he retired seven Croatian active generals who had written two open letters to the public arguing that the current Government administration "is campaigning to criminalize Homeland War and that the Government is accusing and neglecting the Croatian Army". Mesić held that active duty officers could not write public political letters without approval of their
Commander-in-Chief. Opposition parties condemned the President's decision as being a dangerous decision that could harm Croatian national security. Mesić later retired four more generals for similar reasons.
President Mesić is active in foreign policy, promoting Croatia's ambition to become a member of the
European Unionand NATO. He also initiated mutual apologies for possible war crimes with the President of Serbia and Montenegro. After Constitutional amendments in September 2000, he was deprived of most of his roles in domestic policy-making, which instead passed wholly to the Croatian Governmentand its Premier.
Mesić testified at the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslaviathat implicated the Croatian army in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The right-wing parts of the Croatian public took issue with this, saying that his testimony contained untrue statements and questioned his motives (he was often branded "traitor"), and noting that much of his testimony occurred before his presidency, as an opposition politician.
He opposed the U.S.'s military campaign against
Iraqand Saddam Hussein's regime without United Nationsapproval and mandate. Immediately after U.S. attacked Iraq on 20 March 2003, Mesić accused U.S. that by attacking Iraq they marginalise UN, induces divisions in EU, cools down relationships with their allies, disturbs foundations of international order and induces crisis which could spill over borders of Iraq. [hr icon [http://www.nacional.hr/articles/view/21036/3/ Nacional weekly: Mesićeva podrška UN-u blokira ulazak Hrvatske u NATO] ]
Mesić improved Croatian foreign relations with
Libyaby exchanging visits with the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, contrary to the wishes of U.S. and British diplomacy. [ [http://www.nacional.hr/en/articles/view/18347/ Nacional weekly: Following Blair's visit to Libya, Mesić insisting on trade with that country] ]
The first Mesić mandate was not marked with historically crucial events such as the Tuđman presidency, and the Croatian public shifted in political orientation (HDZ partly lost in popularity, mostly to leftist parties).
When the Government changed hands in late 2003, problems were expected between the leftist President and a Government with rightist members, but Mesić handled the situation gracefully and there were few notable problems in this regard.
He served his first 5-year term until February 2005. In the 2005 election, Mesić was a candidate supported by eight political parties and won almost one half of votes, but was denied the absolute majority by a few percent. Mesić faced off with
Jadranka Kosorin the second round of the elections and won. He will serve his second 5-year term until 2010.
In December 2006, a controversy arose when a video was published which showed Mesić during a speech in Australia in the early 1990s, where he said that the Croats "won a victory on April 10th" (when the fascist
Independent State of Croatiawas formed) "as well as in 1945" (when the anti-fascists prevailed and the Socialist Republic of Croatia was formed), as well as that Croatia needs to apologize to no one for the Jasenovac concentration camp(i.e. the WWII genocide of Serbs). [hr icon [http://www.index.hr/clanak.aspx?id=334481 Vijesti.net: stari govor Stipe Mesića: Pobijedili smo 10. travnja!] ]
Mesić sparked controversy on the issue of the Independent State of Croatia on another occasion during a speech in which he claimed that not all Croats fighting for the Independent State of Croatia were Ustase supporters and claims that in fact most were fighting legitimately for Croatian independence. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8g4XBs8P-s]
On 1 March 2006 the Civic Assembly of
Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, brought a decision to declare Stjepan "honorary townsman". The decision has been heavily criticized and caused a huge amount of controversy in Montenegro.
The following quote is often attributed to Mesić by (mostly Serbian) critics in order to show his supposed historical guilt.
* "My task has come to an end. There is no more Yugoslavia." ("Moj posao je završen - Jugoslavije više nema")
December 5 1991in the Croatian parliament having left the presidency of the Yugoslav presidency. To which he replied :
:"An excellent question. I will explain what this was about. The Croatian parliament [had] elected me to be the Croatian member of the Presidency of Yugoslavia. I went to Belgrade, where first, for several months, I was not allowed to take up my duties because the Federal Assembly was unable to meet. After that, the Serbian bloc boycotted my election as president under... Finally, under pressure from the international community, I was elected president. Croatia adopted a decision on its independence. Croatia, in agreement with the international community, postponed its secession from Yugoslavia by three months. This time period had elapsed. Yugoslavia no longer existed. The federal institutions were no longer functioning. I returned to Zagreb, and that's precisely what I said. Because I [had not gone] to Belgrade to open up a house-painting business. I went there as a member of the Presidency of Yugoslavia. Since Yugoslavia no longer existed and the Presidency no longer existed, I had performed the tasks entrusted to me by the Croatian parliament and was reporting back, ready to take up a different office. What was I to do in Belgrade when the Presidency no longer existed?... The accused is a lawyer. He understands very well what I'm talking about. My 'task' was to represent Croatia in the Federal Presidency."See [http://www.un.org/icty/transe54/021002ED.htm ICTY Transcript, Page 10636 - Mesić's cross-examination by Slobodan Milošević at the ICTY on
October 2 2002] .
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