The Z-4 Plan was a proposed basis for negotiations to end the Croatian War of Independence through a political settlement. It was drafted by Peter W. Galbraith, Leonid Kerestedjiants and Geert-Hinrich Ahrens on behalf of the mini Contact Group comprising diplomats from the United States, Russia, the European Union and United Nations envoys. The co-chairs of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg were closely involved in the political process surrounding the Z-4 Plan. The document was prepared in the final months of 1994 and early 1995 before it was presented to Croatian President Franjo Tuđman and the leaders of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) on 30 January 1995. While Tuđman was displeased with the received proposal, the RSK authorities, influenced by Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, refused to receive the document, let alone discuss it. Milošević was concerned that the plan might be applied to force the settlement of a crisis in Kosovo, then under direct rule by Serbia.
Three further attempts to revive the plan were made after Operation Flash, in early May, when Croatia captured a portion of western Slavonia previously controlled by the RSK. The first such initiative, launched in later that month failed because the RSK demanded that the Croatian forces pull back from western Slavonia—which was declined by Croatia. The second attempt failed simply because neither party wanted to negotiate. The final round of negotiations where the Z-4 Plan was proposed by international diplomats occurred in early August, when a major Croatian attack against the RSK seemed imminent. Despite last-ditch efforts by Galbraith to persuade Milošević and RSK leadership to accept the plan, division between the RSK leaders allowed Croatia to claim that the RSK had no real intent to negotiate. The Croatian delegation, which had little interest in the negotiations and instead sought to prepare diplomatic ground for the imminent military operation, presented its own demands to the RSK, which were likewise rejected by its representatives. On 4 August, Croatia launched Operation Storm, militarily defeated the RSK and effectively ended the political process which had led to the creation of the Z-4 Plan.
Principles and elements of the Z-4 Plan made their way into two separate proposals regarding the resolution of the Kosovo crisis in 1999, during the Kosovo War, and in 2005 as a part of the Kosovo status process. Neither of the two proposals were accepted by parties to that conflict.
In August 1990, an insurgency known as the Log Revolution took place in Croatia centred on the predominantly Serb-populated areas of the Dalmatian hinterland around the city of Knin, as well as in parts of the Lika, Kordun, and Banovina regions, and settlements in eastern Croatia with significant Serb populations. The areas were subsequently named the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) and, after declaring its intention to integrate with Serbia, the Government of Croatia declared the RSK a rebellion. By March 1991, the conflict escalated resulting in the Croatian War of Independence. In June 1991, Croatia declared its independence as Yugoslavia disintegrated. A three-month moratorium on Croatia's and the RSK's declarations followed, after which the decision came into effect on 8 October.
As the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) increasingly supported the RSK and the Croatian Police was unable to cope with the situation, the Croatian National Guard (ZNG) was formed in May 1991. The ZNG was renamed the Croatian Army (HV) in November. The establishment of the military of Croatia was hampered by a UN arms embargo introduced in September. The final months of 1991 saw JNA advances and the fiercest fighting of the war, culminating in the Siege of Dubrovnik, and the Battle of Vukovar. In November a plan was negotiated to halt fighting pending a political settlement, which became known as the Vance plan, and its implementation began in early January 1992. The ceasefire collapsed in January 1993 as the HV launched the Operation Maslenica, and small-scale clashes continued for more than a year. On 16 March 1994, Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin borkered negotiations between Croatia and the RSK which produced a new ceasefire on 30 March. Further negotiations produced agreements on reopening of a section of the Zagreb–Belgrade motorway traversing RSK-held part of western Slavonia, Adria oil pipeline and some water supply lines by the end of 1994.
The Z-4 Plan was drafted by the United States ambassador to Croatia Peter W. Galbraith, Russian ambassador to Croatia Leonid Kerestedjiants and German diplomat Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, representing the European Union (EU) in the so-called mini Contact Group. The Z in the plan's name stood for Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and the figure 4 represented involvement of the United States, Russia, the EU and the UN. It was a product of a process started on 23 March 1994. Galbraith stated that he considers himself the principal author of the plan. The plan was a highly developed legal document, intended as a basis for negotiations, and according to Ahrens, it was designed to commit Croatia to an internationally agreed settlement and prevent it from turning to a military resolution of the war, while being very generous to the Croatian Serbs. According to Ahrens, the plan was in reality too generous to the Serbs. In essence it created legal foundation for a permanent existence of a Serb state within Croatia.
The central portion of the plan was the Constitutional Agreement on Krajina, or Part One of the Z-4 Plan. Part One defined Krajina as an autonomous region of Croatia, whose borders were based on results of the 1991 Croatian census, which identified eleven municipalities with absolute Serb population majority. Those areas were to enjoy a high level of autonomy, with the bulk of authority transferred from the central government in Zagreb to Krajina. Those included its own president, cabinet, legislation, courts, use of its own emblem, flag and currency, the right to levy taxes, enter into international agreements, and its own police force. The plan provided for demilitarisation of the autonomous area. Part Two of the plan, named the Agreements Concerning Slavonia, Southern Baranja, Western Sirmium and Other Areas related to areas where the Croatian Serbs did not form the majority in 1991, including the eastern and western Slavonia. Part Two generally contained transitional provisions. Part Three of the plan spelled out safeguards regarding the human rights, fundamental freedoms, prosecution of war crimes, establishment of a human rights court where international judges would sit, and provisions allowing dual Croatian and Yugoslav citizenship of Croatian Serbs. The plan envisaged that the western Slavonia would be the first to be restored to Croatian control, followed by the eastern Slavonia where a transitional UN administration would be set up prior to the handover.
The first draft of the Z-4 Plan was prepared in September 1994, but it was further developed and amended on several occasions over the following four months. Over the period, the co-chairs of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY), David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg requested amendments of the plan and opposed its presentation to Croatian or RSK authorities. The first set of changes requested by the ICFY co-chairs was to include a provision that Croatia cedes territory around the city of Županja, on the north bank of the Sava River, to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, thus allowing better links between Belgrade and the Bosnian Serb territory around Banja Luka. The request, submitted on 8 September, was turned down by the plan authors. The same day, Owen requested that the plan allow Krajina to form a confederation with either Serbia or FR Yugoslavia. Owen and Stoltenberg sought to create a network of confederations between former Yugoslav republics, but the authors of the Z-4 Plan deemed that impossible and turned the idea down. In addition, German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel, on behalf of the German EU presidency, cautioned Owen that Krajina Serbs formed only 5 percent of Croatia's population, and that such a confederation between Kosovo and Albania would be more natural. On 6 October, Russia declared its opposition to the confederation, but Owen successfully lobbied its continued support to the idea four days later, shortly before the idea was dropped completely.
The third group of requested amendments pertained to the eastern Slavonia. Owen and Stoltenberg requested its status to be left unresolved instead of gradually reverting to Croatian control over a five-year period, application of postwar ethnic composition of the area as a formula used to define ethnic mix of the local police and establishment of a joint Croatian-Yugoslav company to extract crude oil in Đeletovci. The proposal was turned down, but it led to provision of local autonomy for Serb villages in the area and shortening of the transitional period to two years. The fourth group of proposed amendments, tabled by Owen, included a proposal for a continued Serb armed presence in Krajina and additional authority for Krajina regarding mineral resources and international treaties. Following the proposals, the text of the plan became the subject of endless discussions between the contact group countries, the EU and the ICFY co-chairs. In addition, the ICFY co-chairs began drafting their version of the plan and Stoltenberg actively stalled the plan through Norwegian diplomat and ICFY ambassador Kai Eide, creating a conflict between Eide and Galbraith.
First news of the plan
On 1 October, Galbraith informed the Croatian President Franjo Tuđman of the existence of the plan, without providing any details. Similarly, Ahrens and Eide informed Milan Martić, the president of the RSK. The early negotiations regarding the Z-4 Plan were envisaged to be performed without actually disclosing the plan to Croatia and the RSK, however, elements of the Z-4 Plan were leaked to newspapers published in Belgrade and Zagreb in mid-October. According to Florence Hartmann, representatives of Tuđman and those of the President of Serbia Slobodan Milošević met in Graz, Austria in October to discuss the proposed reintegration of the RSK into Croatia and joint opposition to the Z-4 Plan. Tuđman disliked the plan because it envisaged a Serb state within Croatia, while Milošević saw the plan as a dangerous precedent which might be applied to Kosovo, Vojvodina and possibly Sandžak in Serbia, then a part of FR Yugoslavia.
Galbraith, Eide and Kerestedjiants agreed to deliver the plan to Croatia and the RSK on 21 October, but the move was opposed by Owen and Stoltenberg. Furthermore, Owen requested Churkin to instruct its envoy to oppose the delivery too. On instructions from Moscow, Kerestedjiants pulled out from the move altogether. The move led Galbraith to accuse Owen of sabotaging the Z-4 Plan.
The final version of the Z-4 Plan, 53 pages long, was prepared on 18 January 1995 and given the name of Draft Agreement on the Krajina, Slavonia, Southern Baranja and Western Sirmium, consisting of three documents and two provisional maps. The maps were considered provisional because there was a concern that inclusion of Benkovac municipality in Krajina would be contested by Croatia because a portion of the municipaliy had been predominantly inhabited by Croats and the area was located on the Adriatic coast. Another territorial issue was the municipality of Slunj. It was not included in Krajina, and the omission effectively cut Krajina in two. A possible solution to the problem was seen in splitting of the municipality in two and awarding the areas east of Slunj to Krajina. In anticipation of such solution, planning for construction of a road bypassing Slunj started. Regardless of the unresolved issues, delivery of the plan to Croatia and the RSK was scheduled for January.
Shortly before the final version of the plan was drafted, on 12 January, Tuđman announced in a letter to the UN that Croatia would not grant an extension of UN peacekeeping mandate beyond 31 March, and that the UNPROFOR troops deployed to the RSK would have to leave.
On 30 January the Z-4 Plan was presented to Tuđman by the French ambassador to Croatia, accompanied by Galbraith, Kerestedjiants, Ahrens and the Italian ambassador Alfredo Matacotta, as a replacement for Eide. Tuđman did not hide his displeasure with the plan, but he received the draft anyway knowing that Milošević' opposition to the Z-4 Plan over concerns for Kosovo would not allow the plan to progress to implementation. Therefore, Tuđman accepted the plan as a base for negotiations with the RSK, hoping that the RSK would dismiss the plan which Croatia considered totally unacceptable.
The five diplomats then travelled to Knin, to present the Z-4 Plan to the RSK leadership. There, they met with Martić, as well as RSK prime minister Borislav Mikelić and foreign minister Milan Babić. Martić refused to receive the draft before the UN Security Council issued a written statement extending the UNPROFOR's stay to protect the RSK. Kerestedjiants and Ahrens suggested that Martić should receipt the plan and then state the RSK would not negotiate before the UNPROFOR issue was resolved, but Martić turned down the proposal as well. The diplomats then attempted to meet Milošević in Belgrade regarding the matter, but Milošević refused to see them. The group returned to Zagreb the next day. Ahrens described the events of 30 January as "a fiasco".
Ahrens noted that both Croatia and the RSK were satisfied with the outcome. In addition, Owen and Stoltenberg expressed their understanding for RSK's and Milošević's rejection of the plan, provoking a sharp reaction from Galbraith. RSK parliament convened on 8 February with the Z-4 Plan as the sole item of the agenda. In their speeches there, Martić, Mikelić and Babić described the plan as provocative to the RSK and saw Milošević's support in refusal of the plan as a great encouragement. Besides Milošević, a number of other influential Serbian politicians rejected the plan, including Borisav Jović, close ally of Milošević who deemed the RSK strong enough militarily to resist Croatia and Vojislav Šešelj, who considered the plan totally unacceptable. The opposition politicians in Serbia were split. Zoran Đinđić observed that since the RSK refused the plan Serbia should not accept it either, while Vuk Drašković advocated the plan as a historic opportunity. Drašković's views ultimately prevailed in the Serbian media, but not before late August. The only official reaction by Croatia was formulated by its chief negotiator Hrvoje Šarinić. He said Croatia endorses restoration of Croatian rule, return of refugees and local self-government for the Croatian Serbs, but dismisses every other solution provided by the plan which was not compatible with the Constitution of Croatia. In Croatia, the plan and its authors, especially Galbraith, were strongly criticised, in what Ahrens described as a "vicious campaign".
Attempts of reintroduction
May and June 1995
There were several more attempts to push forward the Z-4 Plan as a basis for a political settlement of the Croatian War of Independence. After Croatia captured western Slavonia from the RSK in Operation Flash in early May, Owen and Stoltenberg invited Croatian and RSK officials to Geneva in an effort to revive the plan. The initiative was endorsed by the UN Security Council and the G7 preparing its summit in Halifax, Canada at the time. The meeting was attended by Owen, Stoltenberg, Galbraith, Kerestedjiants, Eide, and Ahrens as the international diplomats, the RSK was represented by Martić, Mikelić and Babić and Croatian delegation was led by Šarinić. He accepted the invitation claiming that the venue is a Croatian concession because the Croatian authorities considered the issue an internal matter of Croatia which should normally be dealt with within Croatia itself. On the other hand, the RSK delegation insisted on Croatian withdrawal from the territory captured earlier that month before the negotiations could proceed. Since no such withdrawal was requested by the UN Security Council, Croatia rejected the claim and the initiative collapsed.
The second initiative to revive the plan arose from talks between Kinkel and French foreign minister Hervé de Charette on 28 June. They proposed establishment of zones of separation to enforce a ceasefire, monitoring of external borders of the RSK, specific guarantees for safety of the Croatian Serbs and implementation of confidence-building measures through economic cooperation between Croatia and the RSK. The initiative, however, did not gain any ground after the RSK refused to negotiate.
Another effort involving the plan came about after Milošević asked the United States to stop imminent Croatian attack against the RSK on 30 July. In his request he indicated that negotiations should be held based on the Z-4 Plan, but refused to meet Galbraith, who wanted Milošević to pressure the RSK into accepting the Z-4 Plan, on 2 August. Instead, Galbraith met Babić in Belgrade in an effort to persuade him to accept the Z-4. Galbraith informed Babić that the RSK could not expect international sympathy because of its involvement in the Siege of Bihać and that the RSK would have to accept Croatian terms to avoid war. As an alternative, Galbraith proposed Babić to accept negotiations based on the Z-4 Plan. Babić complied and Stoltenberg consequently invited Croatian and RSK delegations to talks on 3 August. The venue of Genthod near Geneva, was selected to avoid media attention. The RSK delegation was headed by Major General Mile Novaković of the Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina, while Croatian delegation was headed by Tuđman's advisor Ivić Pašalić.
At the meeting, the RSK insisted on withdrawal of the HV from western Slavonia and gradual implementation of a ceasefire, followed by economic cooperation before a political settlement is discussed. On the other hand Croatian delegation did not intend to negotiate, but to prepare diplomatically for a military resolution of the war. Stoltenberg proposed a seven-point compromise, including negotiations on the basis of the Z-4 Plan starting on 10 August. The proposal was initially accepted by Babić, only to express his reservations about the Z-4 Plan as a political settlement when asked to publicly declare his support for the Stoltenberg's proposal, so that the delegation headed by Novaković would follow his lead. Pašalić then asked Novaković to acceede to Croatia's seven demands, including immediate replacement of the RSK with Croatian civilian government. Novaković declined the Pašalić's proposal, but indicated he accepts the proposal made by Stoltenberg instead. Regardless, Pašalić declared that the RSK has declined Croatian offer to negotiate. Croatia did not consider Babić powerful enough to secure support for any initiative from Martić and thus unable to commit the RSK to any agreement. This view was supported by Babić himself, who told Galbraith during their 2 August meeting in Belgrade that Martić would only obey Milošević. On 4 August, Croatia launched Operation Storm against the RSK and, according to Galbraith, effectively terminated the Z-4 Plan and the associated political process.
One final attempt was made to revive the Z-4 Plan organised by Babić on 16 August. The initiative called for negotiation of each point of the plan and extension of the autonomous areas to eastern Slavonia. However, Ahrens and Stoltenberg, considered any talks between Croatia and the exiled and discredited leaders of the RSK impossible. When they consulted Šarinić about the initiative, he dismissed any possibility of negotiations.
September 1995 and beyond
Following Croatian military success against the RSK (Operation Storm) in August and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, against the Republika Srpska (Operation Mistral) in September, the US President Bill Clinton announced a new peace initiative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The initiative also aimed at restoring eastern Slavonia to Croatian control based on Croatian sovereignty and principles of the Z-4 Plan. Gailbraith sought to reconcile elements of the plan and the new circumstances in the field. One such element was limited self-government of Croatian Serbs in eastern Slavonia, in municipalities where they formed a majority of population in 1991, but it was dropped after objections from Croatia and replaced with provisions already contained in the Constitution of Croatia. By early October, the process led to the Erdut Agreement, which set up the principles for restoration of the eastern Slavonia to Croatian rule. At the outset of implementation of the Erdut Agreement in 1996, there were concerns in Croatia that the process might result in "covert" implementation of the Z-4 Plan in eastern Slavonia and establishment of political autonomy of the region.
The Z-4 Plan was resurrected once again in 1999 as a template for the Rambouillet Agreement—proposed peace treaty negotiated between FR Yugoslavia and ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo. In 2005, following the Kosovo War, Serbia and Montenegro attempted to resolve the Kosovo status process by tabling a peace plan offering a broad autonomy for Kosovo. According to Drašković, then foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, the plan was the "mirror image of the Z-4 Plan". The same year, a "RSK government-in-exile" was set up in Belgrade and it demanded the revival of the Z-4 Plan in Croatia. The move was condemned by Drašković and Serbian President Boris Tadić. The same idea was put forward in 2010 by a Serb refugee organisation led by Savo Štrbac.
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