Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has said that his three-day visit to the United States and talks with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice were very successful.
The warm reception and support given by US officials to Croatia and its Euro-Atlantic aspirations are the ultimate confirmation and affirmation of Croatia as an international policy subject, Sanader said, adding that the US support represented the joint success of all those who worked on the strengthening of Croatia’s international position.
Sanader said he was referring to Croatian President Stjepan Mesic, the Croatian Parliament, the parliament speaker, the former prime ministers and Croatian Homeland War soldiers who fought for the country’s independence in 1991.
“What we have experienced in Washington shows that Croatia has become a reputable partner to the international community, the United States, the European Union and all those who care about prosperity and world peace,” Sanader said.
Sanader underlined Bush’s statement that Croatia should join NATO in 2008 as one of the most memorable moments of his visit to the US.
“This is a firm statement which will have a significant impact on the NATO summit in Riga and it will mark the final document to be adopted at the meeting,” the Croatian PM said.
Asked if in return Croatia had to promise that it would sign Article 98 on the non-extradition of US citizens to the International Criminal Court or send additional military forces to Afghanistan, Sanader said he had heard of such speculations in Croatia, but that those conditions were not mentioned at the talks.
Sanader said President Bush thanked Croatia for its contribution in Afghanistan and another 11 UN peace missions world-wide.
Bush also expressed interest in progress Croatia had made on its path to the EU, Sanader said, adding that he informed the US president that Croatia was completing the process of screening, an in-depth analysis of the level of adjustment of its legislation to the EU acquis communautaire.
We also talked about the global war on terrorism and the US president expressed interest in our opinion about North Korea’s nuclear testing, Iran and other issues, Sanader said, adding that the US respected Croatia’s opinion on various international issues, notably the situation in the region, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and developments in Moldova and Ukraine.
“At the talks with the US president and other state officials I stressed the need to maintain the status of equality and sovereignty of the Croat people in Bosnia as a fundamental condition for the preservation of Bosnia,” Sanader said, adding that this was supported by all US officials he held talks with.
“Croatia is a friendly country that will advocate Bosnia’s European future, but Croats in Bosnia must remain equal to the other two peoples in the country,” the Croatian PM said.
Asked how the Croatian public can be persuaded of the advantages of NATO membership, Sanader said NATO today was not the same as it was during the Cold War, adding that the alliance today was a system of values such as democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law and social and market economy. “These are the values Croatia defends and practices”. If Croatia had been a NATO member in 1991, there would have been no war, Sanader said.
Asked what were the chances for President Bush to visit Croatia, Sanader said he expected Bush’s visit, adding that he was certain that the US president would be warmly welcomed in Croatia.
Asked if the talks with US officials tackled the invitation for bids for the supply of armoured transporters for the Croatian army, Sanader answered in the negative.