NATIONAL FEDERATION OF CROATIAN AMERICANS
1329 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 331-2830 NFCAhdq@aol.com Fax: (202)331-0050
For Immediate Release: Contact: Joe Foley
April 15, 2002 Tel: 301-294-0937
OFFICIALS OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF CROATIAN AMERICANS MEET WITH THE STATE DEPARTMENT
(Washington, D.C., April 15, 2002). On Wednesday, April 10, 2002, John Kraljic, President of the National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA), Steve Rukavina, a former President of the NFCA, and Joseph Foley of Foley Government & Public Relations, Inc. met with State Department officials to express their concerns regarding the low level of monies proposed to be allocated to Croatia for Fiscal Year 2003.
The budget proposal allocates only $30 million to Croatia and $50 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This compares with proposed allocations of $110 million for Serbia, $25 million for Montenegro and $85 million for Kosovo.State Department officials generally explained that foreign aid for European states is being decreased as a result of increased needs in Afghanistan. Within Europe, most aid is directed to Southeastern Europe, which includes aid for Albania and Bulgaria (each of which will receive $28 million under the proposal) and Romania (which will receive $29 million under the proposal). Essentially, a block of money is dedicated to the region, with the money then divided among those countries receiving aid.
Effectively, this means that every dollar Serbia and Monetenegro receive is a dollar less in the common pool for other countries, including Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Those present on behalf of the NFCA made a forceful case for increased funding for Croatia. Note was made of Croatia’s continuing need for economic assistance. Mr. Kraljic, for instance, noted that Croatia had housed more Bosnian Muslim refugees than any other country in the world. The housing of these and Croat refugees primarily in hotels and other tourist facilities along Croatia’s Adriatic coast caused tremendous damage to Croatia’s tourist infrastructure which to this day has not been fully repaired.
Moreover, Mr. Kraljic noted Croatia’s assistance in NATO’s war on Serbia, its continuing cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and other points which show that Croatia remains the only nation in the region on which the United States can rely.Those officials of the State Department present noted that the reasons for the disparity in amount of aid were based on a variety of factors including demographic considerations.
Mr. Kraljic believes that disparity reflects the continued importance which State Department officials to give to Serbia, viewing it as an important factor in the area. Indeed, as Mr. Kraljic noted, though the greatest war damage in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (i.e., Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo) was inflicted on Kosovo, the Republic of Serbia will receive $25 million in aid more than Kosovo!
State Department officials did point out that Serbia will not receive the aid unless it cooperates with the ICTY. But, as Mr. Kraljic noted after the meeting, current American policy merely calls for a suspension of aid. "All that means is that Serbia is really not being penalized; a real penalty would be for Serbia to forfeit its allocation and to give the money to those countries, such as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are cooperating with the ICTY," said Mr. Kraljic.
Mr. Kraljic and Mr. Rukavina further complained to State Department officials concerning where the funding Croatia is receiving is being directed. Mr. Kraljic noted that one subcontractor which is receiving American tax-payer dollars includes the Serbian Democratic Forum (SDF). Led by Veljko Dzakula, a former official of the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, a statelet established by pro-Milosevic Serbs which engaged in massive war crimes against Croat civilians, the SDF receives monies to work on minority returnee assistance.
During the meeting, Mr. Kraljic protested the hypocrisy of providing money to such a group and noted the NFCA’s belief that little money is provided to Croat-controlled NGO’s which provide assistance to returning Croat refugees, especially those seeking to return to Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina.Mr. Rukavina also noted during the meeting that the State Department has done little to promote ties between Croatian-American business leaders and Croatian businesses. "If you look at many other Eastern European nations, each have business councils which promote ties between the diaspora and the home country business communities," Mr. Rukavina said, pointing to an especially active Ukrainian group as an example which receives USAID funding. "This has not been the case with respect to Croatia and this needs to be addressed as well."
The NFCA has determined to ask Croatia’s friends in Congress to support an appropriations bill which would at least keep Croatia’s budget allocation for Fiscal Year 2003 at its current level of $44 million. The NFCA calls on all of Croatia’s supporters in the community to contact their Congressmen to protest the unjust allocations being given to Croatia.
The NFCA is a national umbrella organization whose members have approximately 130,000 members.