Updated: 02-Mar-2005 NATO Speeches


1 Mar. 2005

Point de presse

with NATO Secretary General Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and the President of Croatia Mr. Stjepan Mesic

Audio file .MP3/6010Kb
High resolution photos

de Hoop Scheffer: It was a great pleasure for me to meet the President of Croatia, again, I can say, because we've met before in Croatia and even in my previous incarnation we already met. So it was good to renew our acquaintance.

I started, of course, by congratulating the President on his re-election. I could also congratulate the Foreign Minister on the fact that she is now here at NATO for the first time, and I'm sure that we'll be in touch on a frequent basis.

Why? Because Croatia is a country which, as you know, has a Membership Action Plan, and that Membership Action Plan, of course, is part of the road and let me stress it's, from time to time, a long and winding road to Euro-Atlantic integration and to NATO membership.

What are the main elements of that road? You know them. First of all, it's very important that in a certain number of areas, and let me start with defence reform, Croatia vigorously does what it has to do in the framework of the strategic defence review, and there will be a NATO team going to Croatia next week to evaluate the progress which has been made.

Let me state that progress has been made, that we also know that in a number of areas more progress will be absolutely necessary. One element which is important is that we hope and also expect that Croatia very soon will be able to spend two percent of the GDP on defence, which will make defence reform easier than it is if you have less to spend.

Subjects important... subjects we also discussed, of course, was the return of refugees and the important point of defence reform. We discussed the cooperation in the framework of the Adriatic Three with Macedonia and Albania.

I explained to the President, on another issue, which is an important one, for the EU, but also very much for NATO, that full cooperation with the ICTY, full cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague, also means for the EU, but NATO takes the same position, that despite the good cooperation in the large majority of cases with the ICTY, the final thing should also be done. And you know the final thing, or the final person is General Gotovina. He should be arrested, and he should go to The Hague to face the tribunal.

The President and I discussed this. I explained to the President that because of the fact that 19--one-nine--members of the European Union, are also NATO members, although this not directly relates to NATO and the EU situation is of course another one by definition, NATO Allies also take the same position on General Gotovina. He should be arrested, and he should go to The Hague.

I have, of course, finished and I'll finish by saying that I was glad for the President's visit and that I sincerely hope, and also expect, to be quite honest, that Croatia will make the further progress necessary in the framework of the Membership Action Plan. And we know Croatia, as a country, which should be commended on its participation in ISAF, on its support for KFOR and SFOR, which is now called EUFOR in the Balkans, in other words, in its participation in NATO operations under UN mandate. It's a very important element, and we commend and applaud Croatia for that.

Thank you very much indeed.

Stjepan Mesic: Let me join to the statement of Mr. Scheffer. I agree with what he said, except on one point, and this is the issue concerning General Gotovina.

It is certain that Croatia wants to fulfil all the conditions that were set before it concerning full cooperation with the ICTY. Let me stress that out of the 626 requests that were asked... requests for cooperation by the ICTY--and they concern the handing over of documents and of persons--all have been met, except one, and this one concerns General Gotovina.

If Gotovina were in Croatia he would be considered there as a fugitive before the Croatian law and the Croatian institutions, and if he was there he would be arrested. On the other hand, if Gotovina is not in Croatia we would like to ask for cooperation of the other institutions and from other countries to provide their assistance.

It is our obligation to do everything we can in order to fulfil our obligations. However, it must be stressed that if, for example, let me just give you as an illustration, if Gotovina is in Paraguay, it is clear that we cannot extradite him and that we will need cooperation from other countries who have any information indicating the whereabouts of the General.

Full cooperation means for us that we have to do everything we can to arrest and extradite General Gotovina to the ICTY if he is in Croatia. I would like to stress also that all of the persons whose appearance was requested before the ICTY in the capacity of witness, suspect, or indictee, have been handed over to The Hague.

And at the end, let me stress that Croatia has three strategic goals. The first being the Europeanization of the Croatian territory, meaning its institutions and the standards of living. The second goal is membership in the European Union. And the third one, membership in NATO.

The beginning of negotiations would bring us closer to reaching this goal of membership in the European Union. As far as Europeanization is concerned this is a process that we have begun and that we will complete in the expected timeframe.

As far as NATO is concerned, our goal is full membership in NATO and we also wish to take part in NATO's missions.

Questions and answers

Q: For Croatian President, in Croatian, if possible.

Mr. President, we have received information that a letter has been addressed by the state authorities to the EU partner states, most of which are NATO members are well. And that this contains all the information concerning what the state has been doing to locate General Gotovina.

My question is, whether this will be a letter jointly addressed by the President, the Prime Minister and the President of the Parliament?

Stjepan Mesic: This was something that we also discussed in our talks. I said that this letter was... I signed this letter yesterday, and it will be co-signed by the President of the Parliament and the Prime Minister.

This letter will be addressed to all the EU and NATO member states and to the EU institutions. And it will, as I said, carry the signature of the Parliament and the government as well.

This letter contains on hundreds of pages a very detailed description of all the actions that have been taken by the government.

Q: (inaudible)... For Secretary General, the President just said that Croatia is prepared to contribute to NATO mission. What kind of contribution you expect from Croatia regarding the training the Iraqi security forces. And if I may, for President in Croatia language... (SPEAKING IN CROATIAN)...

de Hoop Scheffer: Any contribution by Croatia is of course welcome. I know the Croatian position that Croatia participates in UN-mandated operations. I could say that the training mission in Iraq is UN mandated on the basis of Resolution 1546 of the Security Council. And if Croatia would be in a position to participate Croatia would be welcome, like any partner of NATO would be very welcome in that operation.

What I said, and what I repeat is that I commend Croatia on its participation in present NATO operations and leave it, of course, up to the Croatian government to decide what else they might like to do.

Stjepan Mesic: Well, you were correct in saying that I... I said, and I would like to be reiterate that our two strategic goals are EU membership and NATO membership. And of course, the pace at which we will be joining these two structures will depend on those who will be evaluating us.

We would like to see this process accelerated.

Q: (inaudible)... Is this right that you said if the Croatian authorities can arrest the General they will send him immediately to The Hague?

So if it's possible that the Croatian authorities arrest the General they will send him immediately to The Hague?

Stjepan Mesic: Well this is where the basis of the misunderstanding because we acknowledge that here existed previously in Croatia certain forces that protected ICTY fugitives. However, they're no longer there. And if we get the information that General Gotovina is in Croatia we will arrest and extradite him to The Hague.

de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you very much.

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