The Republıc Of Croatıa And Its Actual Role In The Balkan Regıon

Speech

Mr. Chairman, distinguish ministers, ambassadors, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, This is very exciting momentum we live in, especially regarding diplo-matic and international relations and new emerging democracies in globalized world. Croatia is a relatively new democracy. Although Croatia is mostly known as touristic destination, with vast historical and cultural heritage, on political level Croatia strives to serve as an example and guiding light for sta-bility in the Balkan region....

Mr. Chairman, distinguish ministers, ambassadors, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

This is very exciting momentum we live in, especially regarding diplo-matic and international relations and new emerging democracies in globalized world. Croatia is a relatively new democracy. Although Croatia is mostly known as touristic destination, with vast historical and cultural heritage, on political level Croatia strives to serve as an example and guiding light for sta-bility in the Balkan region.

The history of Europe was saturated with wars, turbulence and struggles for power and predominance. Particularly the Balkans was the theater for con-frontation of various interests. For centuries historical fragility and instability in this region has been controlled by multiethnic and multilingual emperies of Habsburgs and Ottomans. Some of the most dramatic and tragic events of the 20th century took place in the Balkan region.

Finally, at the end of the 20th century, Europe found stamina to make its own reconciliation and reunification for the sake and prosperity of its citizens by virtue of Euro-Atlantic ideas. Unfortunately, Balkan states passed through the bloodshed and hard transition of post communist era. Now, the time has come to achieve common European destiny. Southeast Europe has a historical opportunity to overcome burdens, reform itself and establish new values on the way to the common destiny: EU and NATO membership.

By mentioning EU and NATO, we do not consider only formal ties, but also imply the need of implementing European values, and the need for change of the political profile in the region. This journey starts at home with domes-tic reforms which should overcome some of old habits.

Croatia went through some unfortunate experiences in the recent past. And because of that everyone in my country knows how important is to have partnership in the neighborhood and regional stability. Therefore, we believe that the best and easiest way to achieve this goal is to keep the pace to full inte-gration in Euro Atlantic associations. This is the policy which Croatia has rec-ognized and implemented with the ultimate aim to become a prosperous state for her own citizens. This attitude and values are yielded in our policy in the region - to establish trustworthy and friendly relations. Furthermore, this principal and transparent policy has been recognized in EU, NATO and wider international community. In that place I would like to emphasize that in pres-ent time in Croatia is a full consensus of all political parties regarding Croatian foreign policy in the region.

According to our opinion, the Balkan region is entering the final stage of defining future permanent security structure. Our common goal has to be incorporation of whole of Southeastern Europe in the frame of new undivided Europe.

I would like to remind you about some important facts: Croatia was elected for the nonpermanent member of United Nations Security Council for the period 2008/09. With our experience in peace keep-ing operation, at the moment Croatia is involved in sixteen (16) peacekeeping operations throughout the world, and our unique experience during nineties (90's) in peaceful reintegration of occupied territories of our own country through UN peace mission was a credential for election to this principal UN body. It shows that my country has become mature and responsible member of international community, ready to participate in establishing and exercising peace and prosperity in the world. The Republic of Croatia is not any more a recipient, but rather facilitator and contributor in international arena.

NATO is another huge recognition for Croatia. Ifs passed a long way from Partnership for Peace (PfP), intensive dialogs and membership action plans to the period of highly welcomed invitation for joining to NATO on Bucharest Summit.

With regards to the vision of partnership, in the beginning of year 2000, Albania, Macedonia and Croatia formed so called group A3, known also as American-Adriatic Charter. The aim was to accelerate cooperation between A3 members and other NATO countries in strengthening values of alignment within the Balkans. We believe that this kind of cooperation is an excellent example for some other countries in the region to extend the mutual coop-eration, security and stability in the still fragile region.

EU membership is a paramount goal for Croatian society since the begin-ning of our EU endeavors. There is a wide national consensus about Croatian aim to be a full fledge member of EU. All parliamentarian political parties built a solid cooperation on this goal. As president of European Commission Mr. Manuel Barroso recently said that Croatia has a tangible goal to conclude the negotiation process until the end of 2009, so the membership could be con-cluded throughout 2010. So far Croatia has opened 16 Chapters out of 35 and closed 2. In order to accelerate the process of negotiation, we have to under-take important breakthroughs by reforming our judiciary system and state administration, eradicate corruption, reform some social and economic sec-tors, and adopt EU regulations in public procurement. The main idea about those reforms is to develop and implement them for our own sake.

With an annual growth of 4% over the last ten years, Croatia is one of the most dynamic transitional countries in this part of Europe. Overall political and economical stability, creation of an effective legal system and free enterprise in a democratic environment ensure Croatian economy solid base for becoming more competitive on the world markets. Also, special emphasis has been placed on the creation of favorable business environments, harmonized with the business environments prevailing in the European Union to attract more foreign investments to the country.

Another pillar of Croatia's policy is to boost regional cooperation. By virtue of EU and Salonika process established in 1999, the South East European countries have started with the very vibrant cooperation from the Pact of Stability to today's Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). RCC is

based in Sarajevo and run by Croatian diplomat Hidajet Bi_ evi_. The main goal of this cooperation is to overcome the obsolete historical burdens and guide the Balkans on the path of reconciliation, reconstruction, mutual confi-dence building, sense for negotiation and compromise, economical restoration and concrete programs for the benefit of all citizens. The main aim of RCC is to facilitate new profiles in the region, and to effectively incorporate Southeast Europe into the Euro-Atlantic association.

Turkey and Croatia share very common vision of South East Europe. Cooperation in the nineties (90's), which produced decisive impact in estab-lishing peace in the region, continues today still with both countries spreading out new values and standards in the region. Turkey has been one of the biggest facilitator for Southeast European countries to NATO membership, as well as the staunchest advocate of open door policy for the Balkan countries. Moreover, Turkish active participation in the UN peace operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo pursue stability and peace in the region. The security architecture of the Balkans is inconceivable without Turkish con-tribution.

In conclusion, Europe as well as Southeastern Europe is going through one of the most interesting periods and decisive momentums in recent history. This year's expansion of NATO to Southeast Europe will consolidate demo­

cratic and economic gains in the Balkan. The path of the region toward free political institutions and free markets is unmistakable. The outmost impor-tant goal of my country will remain the readiness to provide the compre-hensive assistance to the neighborhood, in particular to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia on their way to Euro Atlantic associations.

And at the end I would emphasize that Croatia will continue to be a reli-able partner and important strategic bond in the net of security, stability and democratic prosperity in Southeastern Europe.

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