Wind of change: the Croatian government's turn towards a policy of ethnic reconciliation
After almost a decade of nationalist HDZ rule in Croatia, the change of government in 2000 brought pro-minority governance and concrete implementation of minority rights legislation. In 2003, when a reformed HDZ came to power, the new government declared that the unconditional return of all refugees, regardless of their ethnicity and the return of their property constitutes the priority of its mandate. This shift in the treatment of minorities, particularly the Serb minority which is the second largest ethnic community in the country, is closely linked to the fact of the country’s key foreign policy priority of joining the European Union. Since the current government is striving to legitimize its mandate by supporting the country’s entry into the European Union, the state is obliged to comply with all conditionality policies pursued by the Union, including respect for and protection of minorities. This paper examines how the issue of minority protection was perceived and realized in Croatia in thirteen years of the country’s independence by tracing amendments in Croatian legislation for minority protection. The paper emphasises that even though the potential accession to the European Union has motivated politicians to publically advocate the proper inclusion of minorities, the majority of Croatians remain reluctant to accept the need for minority protection. The domestic legislative framework has been brought in line with international minority protection standards, and implementation of minority rights has become more active. Nevertheless, the absence of broad acceptance of minorities constitutes major obstacle for the true realization of minority rights in Croatia.