Updated: 31-Jan-2006 NATO Speeches


30 Jan. 2006

Opening statements

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and Prime Minister of Croatia, Dr. Ivo Sanader
at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council

High resolution photos
Opening statement in the NAC
Opening statement in the NAC
Joint press point

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General, NATO): Good morning, bonjour à tous.

Prime Minister Sanader, I would like to welcome you and your delegation, Defence Minister Roncevic, of course, your Ambassador to this meeting with the North Atlantic Council. Croatia is of course a NATO aspirant and as such a special partner of the Alliance . And we are fully aware of Croatia 's goals and ambitions. And we are constantly monitoring, as you know, the progress because we want you and the other aspirants to succeed as we stated at the Istanbul Summit in June 2004.

And I'm personally convinced the only long-term answer to the quest for stability in your region lies in its integration in the Euro-Atlantic institutions. And we are determined to see this happen.

You, of course, know, Prime Minister, that your success must be in the first instance of your own making. In this respect the news about the capture of General Gotovina has, of course, been received very positively in these headquarters as well. We welcome the progress Croatia has made and we expect this trend to continue.

As you know a NATO representative will soon be visiting Zagreb to further assess your performance. And I hope they will be able to confirm your constant and irreversible progress, especially in those areas which may of course concerned many allies in the past.

Monsieur le Premier ministre, permettez-moi d'indiquer une fois de plus que vous êtes un ami présent ici parmi d'autres amis. J'espère vraiment que votre pays deviendra un allié comme ces pays qui sont déjà dans l'Alliance. Cela demandera encore du travail. Cependant, nous sommes là pour vous aider.

Je voudrais, à présent, donner la parole à Monsieur le Premier ministre Sanader pour qu'il puisse faire quelques brèves observations. Je demanderais ensuite aux représentants de la presse de quitter la salle avant que le Premier ministre fasse son exposé introductif complet.

Prime Minister, it is with great pleasure I give you the forum.

IVO SANADER (Prime Minister of Croatia): Thank you very much, Secretary General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm very glad to have this opportunity to address the North Atlantic Council on behalf of the Republic of Croatia and to discuss first and foremost Croatia 's progress towards the Alliance . Using this opportunity, I would certainly be happy to answer any question you may have over the course of this session.

But first, I would like to thank once again to the Secretary General for this opportunity and to all of you because I believe that Croatia is now ready, with your assistance, with your help, to fast its accession to the Alliance .

As you know, we have started with the accession negotiations with the European Union on October 3rd last year. We're already in the middle of the screening process. And this screening process, we along with the Commission plan to finish until the autumn of this year.

In the course of this first six months of the Austrian presidency, we are planning to start with a couple of chapters to negotiate with negotiations on some chapters, also to close some of them until this... until the end of June.

Now we, in Croatia , have also a debate on NATO, on our future as full member in NATO. And I would like to stress once again that our top priority is along with the EU full membership in the NATO Alliance. For us, NATO is no more what this Alliance was during the Cold War. For us, NATO is about values. Values such as freedom, democracy, rule of law, free market economy, human rights. And that's the discussion currently going on in Croatia .

So we believe that with your help, with help of member States, with help of the Secretariat, especially of the Secretary General and his friends in the Secretariat, we can help also to communicate to the Croatian public what is NATO about. And for that reason, I believe and I perceive even this hour meeting as very important for the Croatian way and path to the NATO.

We have some particular criteria to fulfill which are the same as for the EU membership. We have also our role in the region. And I believe Croatia has a very important role to play in the region along with others, along with member States like Slovenia , like Hungary , like Italy , like Greece . Being a PFP partner and preparing, having already a map preparing for full membership, I think that Croatia could play a very important role.

But one thing I would like to stress, Croatia will not at all play and have any policy towards our region, toward Bosnia-Herzegovina , Serbia - Montenegro , Macedonia-Albania. We will be part of the EU and NATO which means of the international community. And we will contribute to this discussion, to this debate or these efforts. And we know that 2006 is the crucial year for our Southeastern region we will and we can contribute the knowledge of the region, knowledge of languages, of mentality, of history of these people and of these States. And we are ready to do so. It is also in our own interest. It's in our borders.

So for that reason, I have come to Brussels to tell you that we solved, as Secretary General Scheffer said, we have solved one... not one but the last remaining open issue with UN and NATO that was the full cooperation also in case of General Gotovina. We have confirmed our credibility by saying that the general was not in Croatia . I was telling this the whole time. I was also saying that every single indictee has to stand trial. There is no exception. So that was our clear position. This position is being confirmed. And so I can tell you that this credibility, with this credibility, with this position, we're ready to work along with you in all other important issues.

Full cooperation with The Hague is also important for Bosnia-Herzegovina, for Serbia-Montenegro. So we believe that also Karadzic and Mladic will be soon... the sooner the better captured and transferred to The Hague . But in the same time I have to say that all States in Southeastern Europe deserve a clear NATO perspective and clear EU perspective. So let me assure you that we will be working in the same time parallely on our way to EU and NATO with your assistance but at the same time with our neighbors. So I'm preparing the visit in the coming months to Belgrade, my visit, official visit to Belgrade. It will be the second one.

You know that I was the first Prime minister of Croatia to visit Belgrade officially. In 04, Prime Minister Kostunica visited Croatia last year. After my visit to Belgrade , Serbia is intensifying. Probably, I will be visiting Belgrade very soon in spring; then also officially visit Sarajevo in one, two months time. We are discussing with the Prime Minister Terzic today. And... but in February, at the end of February the 27th, I'm visiting Albania . I will be in Tirana for two days, one day to visit, bilateral visit to Albania , and the second day the Macedonia Prime Minister Bučkovski will join us. We will have a meeting of the three in Tirana. So we will be very active along with you. There will be no single policy by Croatia towards this region. We are part of the international community and we will conduct ourselves in that manner.

What we need in Croatia to raise the public support... The public support for NATO has been... for the time being is low, is around 40%, sometime 35, sometime 42. But what we need is to be certainly beyond fifty, if possible by 60%. What is the reason? There are various reasons. One was that some people were told: "Ha! NATO is Iraq and then so on." Our answer was always NATO is about values, to defend the values such as freedom, democracy, rule of law, free market economy and so on.

I'm sure, on that very day, as Croatia gets the invitation whenever it should happen, and you will decide, that the public support for NATO membership of Croatia will dramatically rise. I have the experience of EU. You remember that EU decided to postpone the start of negotiations in March last year. The public support was by 35% at the time. And I've been asked by our friends from the EU what does it mean? Are the Croats Eurosceptics? My answer was "No". You will see, as soon as we start with negotiations, the public support will rise. And it happened. On 4th of October, one day after we started, the support was dramatically raised, redoubled. It was by 60% from 35 to 60, 62, 63 %. That was the case. I'm sure the same will happen in the case of NATO. But I have to ask you to support us. Secretary General already promised... We met for the first time... I was the first Prime Minister to visit the new Secretary General in January 04. And then he visited Croatia in May 04. Now, I have come again for the second time in January 06. So I believe that he will meet Croatia very soon also in 06 to pay the visit. But in any case, whatever you can help and assist us, please, please help us.

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