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Stjepan Mesić
Stjepan Mesic (2) (cropped).jpg
Mesić in 2012
President of Croatia
In office
19 February 2000 – 18 February 2010
Prime Minister Ivica Račan
Ivo Sanader
Jadranka Kosor
Preceded by Franjo Tuđman
Zlatko Tomčić (acting)
Succeeded by Ivo Josipović
Speaker of the Croatian Parliament
In office
7 September 1992 – 24 May 1994
President Franjo Tuđman
Preceded by Žarko Domljan
Succeeded by Nedjeljko Mihanović
President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia
In office
30 June 1991 – 6 December 1991
Prime Minister Ante Marković
Deputy Branko Kostić
Preceded by Borisav Jović
Sejdo Bajramović (Acting)
Succeeded by Position abolisheda
Vice-President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia
In office
24 August 1990 – 15 May 1991
President Borisav Jović
Prime Minister Ante Marković
Preceded by Stipe Šuvar
Succeeded by Branko Kostić
Member of the Presidency of Yugoslavia for the Republic of Croatia
In office
24 August 1990 – 6 December 1991
President Borisav Jović
Sejdo Bajramović
Preceded by Stipe Šuvar
Succeeded by Position abolished
Prime Minister of Croatia
In office
30 May 1990 – 24 August 1990
President Franjo Tuđman
Preceded by Antun Milović
Succeeded by Josip Manolić
Secretary of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
30 June 1991 – 6 December 1991
Preceded by Borisav Jović
Succeeded by Branko Kostić
Personal details
Born (1934-12-24) 24 December 1934 (age 89)
Orahovica, Yugoslavia
(now Croatia)
Political party Independent (2000–present)
Other political
SKH (1955–1990)
HDZ (1990–1994)
HND (1994–1997)
HNS (1997–2000)
Milka Dudunić
(m. 1961)
Children 2
Alma mater University of Zagreb
Profession Lawyer
a Branko Kostić assumed the powers and duties of the office as acting president upon Mesić's resignation

Stjepan "Stipe" Mesić (pronounced [stjêpaːn stǐːpe měːsit͡ɕ]; born 24 December 1934) is a Croatian lawyer and politician who served as President of Croatia from 2000 to 2010. Before serving two five-year terms as president, he was prime minister of SR Croatia (1990) after the first multi-party elections, the last president of the Presidency of Yugoslavia (1991) and consequently secretary general of the Non-Aligned Movement (1991), as well as speaker of the Croatian Parliament (1992–1994), a judge in Našice, and mayor of his hometown of Orahovica.

Mesić was a deputy in the Croatian Parliament in the 1960s, and was then absent from politics until 1990 when he joined the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and was named President of the Executive Council (Prime Minister) of the Socialist Republic of Croatia (then still a constituent republic of the SFR Yugoslavia) after HDZ won the elections. His cabinet is, despite holding office before Croatia's independence, considered by the Government of Croatia to have been the first government cabinet of the current Croatian republic. He later resigned from his post and was appointed to serve as the Socialist Republic of Croatia's membership of the Yugoslav federal presidency where he served first as vice president and then in 1991 as the last President of Yugoslavia before Yugoslavia dissolved.

Following the breakup of Yugoslavia and Croatia's independence, Mesić served as Speaker of the Croatian Parliament from 1992 to 1994, when he left HDZ. With several other members of parliament, he formed a new party called Croatian Independent Democrats (HND). In 1997 the majority of HND members, including Mesić, merged into the Croatian People's Party (HNS).

After Franjo Tuđman died in December 1999, Mesić won the elections to become the next president of Croatia in February 2000. He was the last Croatian president to serve under a strong semi-presidential system, which foresaw the president as the most powerful official in the government structure and allowed him to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and his cabinet. This system was abolished in favor of an incomplete parliamentary system, which retained the direct election of the president but greatly reduced his powers in favor of strengthening the office of Prime Minister. He was reelected in January 2005 for a second five-year term. Mesić always topped the polls for the most popular politician in Croatia during his two terms.

Early life and education

Stjepan Mesić, commonly called "Stipe", was born in Orahovica, Yugoslavia to Josip and Magdalena (née Pernar) Mesić. After his mother died in 1936, his older sister Marija was sent to their uncle Tomo Pernar in France, while Stjepan was put in the care of his grandmother Marija until his father was remarried in 1938 to Mileva Jović, an ethnic Serb who gave birth to Slavko and Jelica.

His father joined the Yugoslav Partisans in 1941. The Mesić family spent most of the Second World War in refuges in Mount Papuk and Orahovica when it was occasionally liberated. In 1945, the family took refuge from the final fighting of the war in Hungary, along with 10,000 other refugees, and subsequently settled in Našice, where Josip Mesić became the chairman of the District Council. The family soon moved to Osijek, where Stipe graduated from 4-year elementary school and finished two years of 8-year gymnasium.

In 1949, his father was reassigned back to Orahovica, and Stipe continued his education at the gymnasium in Požega. He graduated in 1955 and, as an exemplary student, was admitted to the League of Communists of Yugoslavia. The same year on 17 March, his father died of cancer.

Stjepan Mesić continued his studies at the Law Faculty at the University of Zagreb, where he graduated in 1961. That same year, Mesić married Milka Dudunić, of Ukrainian and Serbian ethnic origin from Hrvatska Kostajnica, with whom he has two daughters. After graduation, he worked as an intern at the municipal court in Orahovica and the public attorney's office at Našice. He served his compulsory military service in Bileća and Niš, becoming a reserve officer.


After passing the judicial examination, Mesić was appointed a municipal judge, but soon became embroiled in a scandal when he publicly denounced local politicians for using official vehicles for private purposes. He was nearly expelled from the party over the incident and in 1964 he moved to Zagreb to work as a manager for the company Univerzal.

In 1966, he ran as an independent candidate in the election for his municipal council, and defeated two other candidates, one from the Communist Party and the other from the Socialist Union of Working People. In 1967, he became the mayor of Orahovica and a member of the Parliament of SR Croatia.

In 1967, as mayor, Mesić attempted the building of a private factory in the town, the first private factory in Yugoslavia. However, this was personally denounced by Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito as an attempt to silently introduce capitalism, which was illegal under the then-existing constitution.

Croatian spring

In 1967, when a group of Croatian nationalists published Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Literary Language, Mesić publicly denounced it as a diversionary attack against the very foundations of Yugoslavia and called for its authors to be prosecuted by law.

However, in the 1970s Mesić supported the nationalist Croatian Spring movement which called for Croatian equality within the Yugoslav Federation on economic, political and cultural levels. The government indicted him for "acts of enemy propaganda". The initial trial lasted three days in which 55 witnesses testified, only five against him, but he was sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges that he was a member of a Croatian terrorist group. He appealed and the trial was prolonged, but in 1975 he was incarcerated for one year and served his sentence at the Stara Gradiška prison.

Return to politics

Mesić was elected again in 1990 as a candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in the first multi-party elections in Croatia after World War II. He became the general secretary of HDZ and later the Prime Minister of Croatia. He served in this post from May to August 1990, when he resigned to become the vice-president of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

Presidents rotated annually among the six republics of Yugoslavia. When Mesić's turn came to become president on 15 May 1991, the Serbian incumbent Member Borisav Jović demanded, against all constitutional rules, that an election be held. The members from Serbia and its provinces voted against, and the member from Montenegro abstained, leaving Mesić one vote short of the majority. Under pressure from the international community after the Ten-Day War in Slovenia, Mesić was appointed on 1 July 1991.

As Yugoslav President, Mesić also held the position of Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement, superseding Jović. In October 1991, at the height of Siege of Dubrovnik, Mesić and Croatian Prime Minister Franjo Gregurić led a relief convoy of forty fishing and tour boats to Dubrovnik.

Despite being the head of state of the SFRY, Mesić did not attend many sessions of the collective presidency as it was dominated by four members loyal to Serbia. He was also unable to re-assert control as commander-in-chief of the Yugoslav People's Army, as his orders for them to return to barracks were ignored and they acted independently. On 5 December 1991, Mesić declared his post irrelevant and resigned from the Presidency, returning to Croatia. In a statement to Croatian Parliament, he said: "I think I've accomplished my duty, Yugoslavia no longer exist[s] anymore".

After 1992 Croatian parliamentary election, Mesić became the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament. He served as the Speaker from 7 September 1992 to 24 May 1994.

In 1994, Mesić left the HDZ to form a new party, the Croatian Independent Democrats (Hrvatski Nezavisni Demokrati, HND). Mesić left the HDZ some 18 months after the Croat–Bosniak War in Bosnia had started.

Mesić stated that this decision was motivated by his disagreement with Croatia's policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time, specifically Franjo Tuđman's alleged agreement with Slobodan Milošević in the Milošević–Tuđman Karađorđevo meeting to carve up Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia and the subsequent launch of the Croat–Bosniak War. His departure matches the time of his (and Josip Manolić's) conflict with Gojko Šušak's fraction within HDZ.

Earlier, in 1992, Mesić visited Široki Brijeg in order to dismiss Stjepan Kljujić and install Mate Boban as the president of HDZ BiH, the party's branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mesić later described Boban as a radical nationalist and even "crazy".

Mesić criticized the failed policies of privatization during the war and unresolved cases of war profiteering. In 1997 he and a part of the HND membership merged into the liberal Croatian People's Party (HNS), where Mesić became an executive vice-president.

Presidency of Croatia

Mesic May 06
Mesić during a May 2006 meeting with then-US Vice President Dick Cheney in Dubrovnik
Stjepan Mesic with Obamas
Mesić with Michelle and Barack Obama in the New York City in September 2009.
Vladimir Putin 16 April 2002-1
Mesić with President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on 16 April 2002.

Mesić was elected President of the Republic of Croatia in the 2000 election after winning the first round and defeating Dražen Budiša of HSLS in the second round. Mesić ran as the joint candidate of the HNS, HSS, LS and IDS. He received 41% of the vote in the first round and 56% in the second round. After becoming president, he stepped down from membership in the HNS.

He heavily criticized former President Franjo Tuđman's policies as "nationalistic and authoritarian", lacking a free media and employing bad economics, while Mesić favored a more liberal approach to opening the Croatian economy to foreign investment. In September 2000 Mesić retired seven Croatian active generals who had written two open letters to the public arguing that the current government administration "is campaigning to criminalize Homeland War and that the Government is accusing and neglecting the Croatian Army". Mesić held that active duty officers could not write public political letters without approval of their Commander-in-Chief. Opposition parties condemned this as a dangerous decision that could harm Croatian national security. Mesić later retired four more generals for similar reasons.

Stjepan Mesic Lech Kaczynski
President Mesić and First Lady Milka Mesić with Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczyńska at the Presidential Palace in Zagreb in 2008.

As president, Mesić was active in foreign policy. Mesić promoted Croatia's ambition to become a member of the European Union and NATO. He also initiated mutual apologies for possible war crimes with the President of Serbia and Montenegro. After Constitutional amendments in September 2000, he was deprived of most of his roles in domestic policy-making, which instead passed wholly to the Croatian Government and its Premier.

Mesić testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that implicated the Croatian army in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The right-wing parts of the Croatian public took issue with this, saying that his testimony contained untrue statements and questioned his motives (he was often branded "traitor"), and noting that much of his testimony occurred before his presidency, as an opposition politician. His denunciation of the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic on 12 March 2003 marked a notable thawing of relations with Serbia, and he attended his funeral in Belgrade.

He opposed the United States' military campaign against Iraq and Saddam Hussein's regime without gaining United Nations approval or mandate beforehand. Immediately following the invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003, Mesić deplored that by attacking Iraq, the Bush administration had marginalized UN, induced divisions in EU, damaged relationships with traditional allies, disturbed the foundations of international order and incited a crisis, which could spill over the borders of Iraq.

Mesić improved Croatian foreign relations with Libya by exchanging visits with the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, contrary to the wishes of U.S. and British diplomacy.

The first of Mesić's mandate was not marked with historically crucial events like the Tuđman presidency had been, Croatia's public political orientation shifted away from the HDZ, mostly to the benefit of leftist parties. When the government changed hands in late 2003, problems were expected between the leftist President and a Government with rightist members, but Mesić handled the situation gracefully and there were few notable incidents in this regard. He served his first 5-year term until February 2005. In the 2005 election, Mesić was a candidate supported by eight political parties and won nearly half of the vote, but was denied the absolute majority by a few percent. Mesić faced off with Jadranka Kosor in the run-off election and won. He served his second 5-year term until 2010 when he was superseded by Ivo Josipović.

On 1 March 2006 the Civic Assembly of Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, decided to declare Mesić an honorary citizen. The move was opposed by pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro.

In December 2006, a controversy arose when a video was published showing Mesić during a speech in Australia in the early 1990s, where he said that the Croats "won a victory on April 10th" (when the fascist aligned Independent State of Croatia was formed) "as well as in 1945" (when the communist anti-fascists prevailed and the Socialist Republic of Croatia was formed), as well as that Croatia needed to apologize to no one for the Jasenovac concentration camp. Another 1990s-era speech by Mesić sparked controversy on the issue, where he claimed that not all Croats fighting for the Independent State of Croatia were Ustashe supporters and claimed that most were fighting legitimately for Croatian independence. However, in the 2000s Mesić clearly described the persecutions of Serbs in Independent State of Croatia as genocide. In 2017, another recording from 1992 was published, with Mesić talking how Jasenovac wasn't a "death camp", denying the nature of the concentration camp, and other statements considered supportive of the Ustaše. The same year, Mesić apologized for "the imprudent statement" and relativization of the crimes in Jasenovac.

On 21 December 2008, President Mesić compared Dodik's policies to those of the late Serbian President Slobodan Milošević at the beginning of the 1990s. "Just as the world failed to recognize Milošević's policy then, it does not recognize Dodik's policy today," he said. Explaining where such a policy could be headed, he added: "If Dodik manages to merge Republika Srpska with Serbia, all Croats concentrated in Herzegovina will want to join Croatia in the same manner, leaving a rump Bosniak country, surrounded by enemies. If this were to occur, that small country would become the refuge of all the world's terrorists."

Mesić has been accused by the Croatian Helsinki Committee of obstructing the investigation of war crimes committed by the Yugoslav Partisans during World War II. The committee also accused Mesić of abusing the commemorations at the Jasenovac concentration camp for political purposes.

In 2009, he publicly proposed that all crucifixes be removed from Croatian state offices, provoking a negative reaction from the Catholic Church in Croatia.

Political activities after the end of the presidential mandate

Former Croatian President Mesić, together with former President of Montenegro Vujanovic, former President of Slovenia Turk, former President of Albania Moisiu, former President of Serbia Micic and other politicians from the region, founded the "Podgorica Club" in Podgorica, Montenegro at the beginning of 2019. The Podgorica club is a political initiative of former presidents and prime ministers from the region.

Former President Mesić also participated, together with former presidents and prime ministers from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the Inaugural Conference of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace in September 2017 in Pristina, Kosovo.



Award or decoration Country Date
Order of the Star of Romania - Ribbon bar.svg Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Star of Romania  Romania June 2000
AUT Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - 1st Class BAR.png Grand Star of the Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria  Austria 2001
ITA OMRI 2001 GC-GCord BAR.svg Knight Grand Cross with Grand Cordon of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic  Italy 5 October 2001
SVK Rad Bieleho Dvojkriza 1 triedy BAR.svg Grand Cross of 1st class of the Order of the White Double Cross  Slovakia 2001
UK Order St-Michael St-George ribbon.svg Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George  United Kingdom December 2001
Order Dostik 1kl rib.png Grand Cross of 1st class of the Order of Friendship  Kazakhstan 15 April 2002
HUN Order of Merit of the Hungarian Rep (civ) 1class Collar BAR.svg Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary  Hungary 2002
MY Darjah Utama Seri Mahkota Negara (Crown of the Realm) - DMN.svg Honorary Recipient of the Order of the Crown of the Realm  Malaysia 2002
MLT National Order of Merit BAR.svg Honorary Companion of Honour of the National Order of Merit  Malta 26 October 2006
Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise 1st 2nd and 3rd Class of Ukraine.png First Class of the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise  Ukraine 24 May 2007
RUS Medal of Pushkin ribbon.svg
Medal of Pushkin  Russia 31 October 2007
LVA Order of the Three Stars - Commander BAR.png Commander Grand Cross with Chain of the Order of the Three Stars  Latvia 2008
MD Orden of Republicl Rib.png Order of the Republic  Moldova 23 December 2008
MCO Order of Saint-Charles - Grand Cross BAR.svg Grand Cross of the Order of Saint-Charles  Monaco 16 April 2009
FIN Order of the White Rose Grand Cross BAR.svg Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose of Finland  Finland 2011
ALB National Flag Order.png National Flag Order  Albania 2018


Award or decoration Country Date
Ribbon of an order of king Tomislav.png Grand Order of King Tomislav  Croatia 11 July 2005


Honor Country Date
Podgorica Coat of Arms.png Honorary Citizen of Podgorica  Montenegro 2007
CoA Trogir.png Honorary Citizen of Trogir  Croatia 2009
Grb Istarske županije.svg Honorary Citizen of Istria  Croatia 2009
Coat of arms of Bihać.png Honorary Citizen of Bihać  Bosnia and Herzegovina 2009
Prishtina-Stema.PNG Honorary Citizen of Pristina  Kosovo 2009
Zastava Opatije.svg Honorary Citizen of Opatija  Croatia 2010
Coat of arms of Tetovo Municipality, Macedonia.svg Honorary Citizen of Tetovo  Macedonia 2012
Coat of arms of Albania.svg Honorary Citizen of Shengjin  Albania 2013
Wappen Tirana.svg Honorary Citizen of Tirana  Albania 2013

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Stjepan Mesić para niños

  • Cabinet of Stjepan Mesić
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