Alexa

Ex-German chancellor joins commemoration for late Croatian leader

Ex-German chancellor joins commemoration for late Croatian leader

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder joined thousands of mourners to pay tribute Wednesday to former Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, who died Sunday, praising him for efforts to introduce democracy to the country.
"He was the architect of a modern Croatia, a democratic Croatia, open to the world," Schroeder said at the commemoration in a Zagreb concert hall.
Racan's 2000-2003 government was hailed at home and abroad for beginning political and economic reforms that moved Croatia closer to the mainstream Europe, discarding the nationalist and authoritarian rule of the late President Franjo Tudjman, who governed the country in the 1990's.
Racan died on Sunday, three months after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, which later spread to his brain.
President Stipe Mesic said Racan "wished to create a democratic Croatia and lead it to Europe."
Croatia signed a pre-membership agreement with the European Union during Racan's premiership; it opened membership negotiations in late 2005.
Many also recalled that back in 1990, Racan, as the head of the Communist Party at the time, agreed that different parties _ not only the communists _ be registered in Croatia, leading to the first multiparty elections in the country.
His death, coming just months before the November parliamentary elections, is a blow for his center-left Social Democratic Party, the strongest in the opposition. The party ranks just behind the ruling conservative Croatian Democratic Union and is hoping to return to power.
It is to elect a new leader on June 2, but none of the party's members matches the popularity of Racan, who led the former Communist Party for 17 years, transforming it into a Western-style center-left group.
Funeral arrangements were not disclosed, as Racan wished to be buried only by his family.