From the end of the 1980s, Croatia opened up to political pluralism and introduced elements of the market economy. Since the spring of 1989, the Croatian leadership has increasingly distanced itself from the “Yugoserbian” majorization policy of the Serbian Communist Party leader S. Milošević. On the basis of a new electoral law (December 1989; amended in 1992 and 1995), the first free elections in Croatia after 1945 took place on April 23 and May 6, 1990; the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) won the absolute majority of the seats; The president of the HDZ, F. Tudjman, became president. In the course of various constitutional changes, Croatia increasingly broke away from the Yugoslav state association as the »Republic of Croatia« (including the first proclamation of independence on May 30, 1990). On December 22nd, 1990 the parliament passed a new Croatian constitution. In a referendum (May 19, 1991) the population (against the Serbian minority) voted for Croatia’s independence with 93.24%. On June 25, 1991, according to internetsailors, the parliament finally proclaimed Croatia’s independence (at the same time as Slovenia; on December 23, 1991 from Germany, internationally recognized since January 15, 1992). Allegedly to protect the Serbian minority in Croatia, occupied Serbian troops (including Četnici), supported by the Yugoslav People’s Army, after bloody fighting with the Croatian National Guard from July to mid-September 1991, a third of the territory of Croatia (over 10,000 dead; 260,000 displaced persons, 700,000 refugees to the Croatian hinterland and to Hungary). Croatia was able to maintain its independence. Nevertheless, on December 19, 1991, the Serbian minority of Croatia proclaimed the »Republic of Serbian Krajina «. On January 3, 1992, a UN-brokered 15th armistice came into effect; From March 1992, around 15,000 soldiers of the UN protection forces UNPROFOR were stationed in the Serb-occupied areas (reduced in 1995). The UN set up the “protection zones” East (East Slavonia), West (West Slavonia), North (Banja) and South (Krajina) in Croatia.
On July 3, 1992, a “Croatian State of Herceg-Bosna” was proclaimed in Croatian Bosnia (capital: Mostar); henceforth Croatia supported the Bosnian Croats. In the presidential and parliamentary elections on August 2, 1992 and February 7, 1993, Tudjman were elected and the HDZ confirmed. At the end of January 1993, Croatia tried to recapture Serbian-occupied territories in Krajina and northern Dalmatia (henceforth under a UN mandate). Despite the protection zones, Croatia recaptured Western Slavonia and the Krajina in May and August 1995 and began their reintegration. Due to the resulting mass exodus of Croat Serbs (200,000; to the neighboring republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, especially Kosovo), there are no more compact Serbian settlement areas in Croatia since then. On December 14, 1995, Tudjmansigned the Peace of Paris initialed in the Dayton Agreement (November 21); he also came to an agreement with the Serbian President Milošević on the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia into the Croatian state (Agreement of November 12, 1995). This took place in January 1998; until then, Eastern Slavonia with Baranya and Western Sirmia remained under UN administration. There was increasing criticism of Tudjman’s authoritarian leadership style and his nepotism. The early parliamentary elections on October 29, 1995 were again won by the HDZ (45% of the votes); with the undisputed leading position of President Tudjman (re-elected 1997) and his HDZ increasingly solidified totalitarian structures. With the agreement of August 23, 1996, Croatia and the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia normalized their relations. With the admission to the Council of Europe (November 6th, 1996) the political integration of Croatia into the West began (with the observation of the protection of minorities).
Tudjman’s and his colleagues’ close ties to Croatian nationalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina impaired the reconciliation process there; this also damaged Croatia’s reputation abroad, as did the tense relationship with neighboring countries until 2000 and the slow resettlement and reintegration of Serb refugees and displaced persons (despite a program from the end of June 1998). a. from the Krajina. The parliamentary elections of January 3, 2000 resulted in a change of government with the clear victory of an alliance of previous opposition parties (above all the Social Democratic Party of Croatia [SDP] and the Croatian Social Liberal Party [HSLS]); I. Račan became Prime Minister(SDP). Also the presidential elections from 24. 1./7. 2. 2000 appointed a representative of the previous opposition (S. Mesić against Draž en Budiša [* 1948]) as Tudjman’s successor († 1999). The Račan government and President Mesić sat down v. a. for Croatia’s accession to the European Union and NATO and reaffirmed their intention to finally end Croatia’s previous nationalist policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the end of May 2000, Croatia joined the NATO program “Partnership for Peace” (in April 2008 NATO decision to accept Croatia as a future member; completed on April 1, 2009). At the same time as Turkey and Croatia, the European Union started accession negotiations on October 3, 2005, after Croatia had previously declared its unconditional willingness to cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The relationship with the EU member Slovenia remained strained due to disagreements about the border in the Adriatic Bay of Piran.
In the parliamentary elections on November 23, 2003, the HDZ emerged as the strongest party; Its chairman, Ivo Sanader, formed a coalition government made up of the HDZ, HSLS and the Democratic Center (DC) without having a majority in parliament. In the presidential election (runoff election January 16, 2005) incumbent Mesić clearly won against Deputy Prime Minister J. Kosor of the HDZ. Prime Minister Sanader on February 10, 2006, dismissed the DC’s attorney general who he accused of disclosing confidential government documents to the press for the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. At the same time, the head of government ended the coalition with the DC. Accused government documents to the press for the War Crimes Tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague. At the same time, the head of government ended the coalition with the DC. His party, the HDZ, and their remaining coalition partner, the HSLS, together had a narrow parliamentary majority.
In the parliamentary elections on November 25, 2007, the HDZ won again. She kept her 66 of the 153 House seats. The opposition Social Democrats, however, rose sharply by 13 to 56 seats. The smaller parties thus played a key role in forming a government. In January 2008, Sanader formed a coalition government made up of HDZ, HSLS, HSS and representatives of the national minorities (including the appointment of a Serb to the cabinet for the first time). On January 12, 2008, the parliament confirmed Sanader as head of government. The first trial against high-ranking Croatian military officials began on March 11, 2008, before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague (ICTY). Three former generals had to answer, among them the one revered by many Croatians as a folk hero Ante Gotovina (* 1955), for numerous murders and expulsions of the Serbian civilian population in 1995 during the reconquest of the Krajina region, which was declared independent by the Serbs. From 2008, Croatia felt the consequences of the global economic and financial crisis. After GDP grew by 5.5% in 2007, it rose by only 2.4% in 2008. The unemployment rate rose to over 9% in 2009 (2008: 8.4%). After the surprise resignation of the head of government, parliament elected J. Kosor on July 6, 2009to his successor. On November 20, 2009, the Croatian Parliament ratified an agreement concluded with Slovenia at the beginning of November, in which both countries undertook to recognize the decision of the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague in order to settle the long-standing border dispute. In the runoff election for the office of President on January 10, 2010, I. Josipović (SDP) was able to clear with 60.3% of the votes against the Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić (* 1955, † 2021), who ran as an independent candidate and 39.7% received, prevail. Relations with Serbia could be improved. On June 8, 2010, I. Josipović and Serbia’s President B. Tadić signed a military cooperation agreement. On November 4, 2010, Tadić apologized for the war crimes of 1991 in the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar. Former Prime Minister Sanader, who was suspected of corruption, was arrested in Austria in December 2010 and extradited to Croatia on July 18, 2011. On June 24, 2011, Croatia’s accession to the EU on July 1, 2013 was approved at an EU summit. On December 1, 2011, the European Parliament also voted for EU membership with a very large majority. MEPs praised the major reform efforts that the country has undertaken in recent years, but warned that further reforms are necessary, including. regarding the judiciary and the fight against corruption.