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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


Europe and Central Asia

CROATIA

I. Summary

With the consolidation of peace in the region, Croatian authorities are concerned about an increase in drug trafficking and use in Croatia. Of particular concern is the possibility of the rejuvenation of Balkan route variants which crossed a part of Croatia's territory. To respond to the growing threat, the Ministry of Interior's Narcotics Division has increased the resources devoted to counternarcotics, including funding a drug division or unit in every police department throughout the country. The Parliament also approved laws that remove legal impediments on undercover investigations, use of controlled deliveries, and the technical collection of evidence (i.e. audio and video recording), and that improve the Government of Croatia's (GOC) ability to combat money laundering. The Narcotics Division continues to follow an action plan and a national strategy to combat drug abuse and is carrying out a training program for counternarcotics officials. Croatia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Croatia, with its extensive coast line, geographic location, and limited resources for patrolling its coast, offers great possibilities for transhipping narcotics. Variants of the Balkan route crossed a large part of Croatian territory prior to the war in the former Yugoslavia. With the consolidation of peace in the region, narcotics traffickers are increasingly using the southern portion of the route from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia. They may seek to use legs from Serbia through Croatia to western European markets. There are indications that the amount of narcotics transiting Croatia is increasing. There are also indications that the number of persons using drugs is increasing, particularly in the major urban areas (Zagreb, Split, Osijek, and Rijeka).

Croatian authorities are concerned that Croatia's banking sector, which is being reformed, may be vulnerable to money laundering.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. The government's reorganization of the criminal police within the Ministry of Interior has resulted in a more effective counternarcotics capacity. The National Drug Division has overseen the work of smaller drug divisions and units in every police department throughout the country. The drug division has also maintained cooperative relationships with Interpol, and counterparts in Slovenia, Italy, Germany, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, and the United States. Law enforcement contacts expanded with several other nations, as well. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for maintaining and implementing a counternarcotics action plan. It also assists in the implementation--with other relevant ministries--of the national strategy to combat drug abuse.

Parliament recently approved a law to remove legal impediments on undercover operations, use of controlled deliveries, and the technical collection of evidence (i.e. audio and video recording). Use of these techniques will be legal on January 1, 1998. Parliament also approved a law to remove the government's ability to investigate and prosecute money laundering. This law went into effect on November 1.

Accomplishments. The Ministry of Interior has completed a plan to assume full responsibility for Eastern Slavonia, a region that had previously been under control of the United Nations or rebel Serbs. During the year, GOC officials worked with UN officials to combat narcotics transiting in the area under United Nations control. The establishment of Croatian customs and police checks along many recently reopened border crossings with Bosnia has also inhibited the renewed use of these routes for transshipment of narcotics. Croatia also became the 29th member of the Pompidou Group, a Council of Europe body responsible for preventing the trafficking and abuse of narcotics. The Customs Service also initiated an aggressive training program to ensure that all customs officials are adequately trained in counternarcotics issues.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The amount of narcotics seized during the year increased dramatically. In May, the Croatian police seized 375 kilograms of cocaine, the largest single cocaine seizure in Croatia's history. Law enforcement efforts continued to be focussed on arresting users and suppliers and confiscating narcotics.

Corruption. There have been allegations of corruption within senior levels of the ruling party and government. None of these allegations have linked officials to narcotics-related corruption, however.

Agreements and Treaties. Croatia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention; the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Extradition between Croatia and the US is governed by the 1902 treaty with Yugoslavia.

Drug Flow/Transit. With the consolidation of peace in the region, the GOC opened several border crossing points with northern Bosnia, and regularized the status of border crossing points with western Bosnia. The establishment of customs regimes at these points has likely inhibited the flow of narcotics through Croatia. The volume of traffic transiting the Zagreb/Belgrade highway increased dramatically over the year, although the GOC maintained adequate customs controls along the Serbian border. There was a large increase in the volume of cocaine transshipping the Dalmatian seaports, particularly the Port of Rijeka.

Demand Reduction. The Ministry of Health, with primary responsibility for domestic programs, has established some demand reduction programs, albeit with limited resources. The Ministry of Education requires drug education programs in primary and secondary schools. The state-run national medical system also offers treatment programs for drug users.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The USG continued to urge increased attention by the Government of Croatia to the drug issue. At the GOC's invitation, DEA agents conducted a two-week regional advanced seminar to train senior counternarcotics police officials from Croatia, Hungary, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. The US Coast Guard conducted training on how to board vessels suspected of smuggling and how to plan joint naval, police, and customs operations to interdict smuggling; additional Coast Guard training is planned. All of the USG officials who participated in the training reported a high level of competence and commitment to combatting narcotics trafficking. Liaison between the DEA, US Customs, and other USG agencies with narcotics responsibilities and their GOC counterparts continued to be excellent.

The Road Ahead. With the return of the region and as travel between neighboring nations becomes less cumbersome, drug trafficking through Croatia is likely to increase, expanding the opportunities for organized crime involvement and money laundering. The USG will continue to encourage the GOC to expand its drug control activities and implement its counternarcotics legislation. We also hope to train additional Croatian counternarcotics officials, and solidify our ties with the GOC institutions combatting narcotics.

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