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A Conversation with Ivo Sanader

Speaker: Ivo Sanader, prime minister, Republic of Croatia
Presider: Daniel P. Serwer, director, peace and stability operations, United States Institute of Peace
July 20, 2005
Council on Foreign Relations

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Council on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC


DANIEL SERWER: Let me call us to order. I ask you all to turn on off your cell phones, and I remind everybody today that unlike many Council events, this one is on the record. They gave me little notes so I’m going to read from them, lest I skip anything. We’re going to begin with the Prime Minister’s opening statement today of 15 minutes or so. He and I will engage in some discussion, but I hope that the participants—not the public—will join in quickly. You need to wait for a microphone before you join in, however.

By way of introduction, I asked the prime minister earlier how he would like to be introduced and he said, “as friend,” and I’m very sympathetic to that because he is a friend, because we worked together—is the right way to put it—during the Bosnia war when I was supporting the Federation when he was in the foreign ministry and then in the president’s office, and it really was a matter of collaboration and working together. We had a lot of discussions, sometimes tough discussions and [on] difficult issues. Those were not easy times. It was wartime. It was wartime in Croatia. It was wartime in Bosnia and the international community had failed more than once to be adequate to the situation.

So we became quite friendly, but I’ve got to tell you that if you told me that I would be sitting here less than ten years later with Ivo as the prime minister of Croatia, and not just the prime minister of Croatia but the prime minister who has taken Croatia to the very threshold of European Union, who has governed with the support—I understand—of all the minorities in the Croatian parliament, that he would have done this riding the mechanism of the HDZ, which frankly, in 1995, I didn’t regard as the most progressive force in Croatia. It had its—I understood perfectly well that it had its purposes, it had its objectives and they were important ones, but when I looked to the future at that point, who knew where alternation in power would come from? And Croatia has had a more successful, a more peaceful, orderly alternation in power than many, many countries that go through transition, and I think Ivo is one of the people who is to be credited with that.

He still faces enormous problems. He’s got a country that still isn’t part of Europe; it’s still not quite there in many respects, no matter how much it’s pointed in the right direction. I think he’ll talk to us about some of the challenges he still faces. But I’ve got to take my hat off to somebody who has gone so far so fast in taking his country in the right direction. It’s an important reminder; it seems to me.

I knew that leadership counted in the mid-90s in the Balkans, and frankly throughout the 90s in the Balkans, and it was a lot of really bad leadership at times. But leadership counts on the upside too and I think that the prime minister has demonstrated that. So let’s hear a few words about the current situation and the future prospects and then we’ll go to some discussion.

PRIME MIN. IVO SANADER: Thank you. (Applause)  Dear friend, Dr. Dan Serwer, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, I’m very honored by this introduction by Dan and even in mid-90s having a lot of discussions and debates with them, with Carl Bildt, who is here with Thomas Patrick Melady, the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and others. I would never imagine sitting here with you today in this famous institution and talking as a prime minister to you, prime minister of Croatia, prime minister of a country which has passed through very difficult times in the ‘90s, and we are proud that we gained our independence on the beginning of the ‘90s upon the referendum and the referendum was in ‘91 and 94.5 percent of the Croatian citizens voted for Croatia independence—94.5, which means that a lot of national minorities have been included in this yes vote. And I’m going to relate this to the current situation, what Dan said; I’m proud to lead the government, which is supported by a majority in the parliament which includes all MPs, all representatives of the Croatian minorities.

Three Serb MPs, one Italian, one Hungarian, one Bosniak, one German, and one Czech; all eight out of 152 support my government. After President Tudjman’s death in December ‘99, we lost the elections in January just 20 days after his death—the election—the parliamentary elections and then the presidential elections with the former foreign minister who was running for HDZ, Mate Granic. And then we were holding the party congress in April and I had been elected as a party leader in April 2000. At that time in the opposition, HDZ, Croatian Democratic Union—and I knew there was a lot to do to reform the party. We had to modernize the party; we had to introduce and to adopt a new program. A new party program has been adopted at this fifth party congress since I have been elected; I’ve been elected upon this program. And I knew that this party is probably, if we succeed at that time, is probably the next winner of the elections, if we succeed—if we are going to succeed and we did it. But it took a lot of time and lot of reforms, lots of effort from my associates to reform the party.

And the first approval of our work was the admission to the European People’s Party, which is the leading political power in the European parliament. The European People’s Party consists of like-minded center/center-right Christian Democrat popular parties all over Europe and that was the first goal of my party. And the second was accomplished two days ago, and this is to join the IDU—International Democrat Union—the association of like-minded conservative parties, center-right parties all over the world. We joined this—but the Republican Party is a member of this—and we are now as a party in both leading families. This is the acknowledgement for our work.

But that was the basis, and the main work was how to move Croatia on and we did, I think, a great job and I’m very grateful to Dan that he acknowledges this. We won the election in November ‘03, the next are in ‘07, and I immediately invited the minorities to join the government. We signed an agreement with the Serbian MPs on return of refugees, repossession of properties and all other issues of concerns for minorities. And we signed with each of the MPs representing minorities—with every [one] of them [in] special agreement on cooperation.

As a prime minister, I immediately, after the vote of confidence in the Croatian parliament, some two weeks afterwards, visited as a Croatian leader the Orthodox community, the Serbian Orthodox community in Zagreb, wishing them a “Merry Christmas” in Serbian language. And that was a big shock, not only for members of my party, for my voters, but also for them. And—but very healthy shock. And along with this I visited as the first Croatian prime minister officially Belgrade last year. We signed a couple of important agreements—bilateral agreements on protection of minorities, Serbs in Croatia, Croats in Serbia because there is a large Croatian community—Croatian minority in Serbia-Montenegro. So we have now bilateral agreement between Croatian Serbia and Montenegro, which is of the utmost importance for the future of this region.

Generally, [the] Croato-Serbian relationship is of the utmost importance for the future of the region. I’m sure that Dan will agree on that, that Carl will agree on that, that Tom Melady will agree on that, and all of you who know this region. And we signed a free trade agreement between our two countries. We abolished the visa. We have now free visa regime in order to be able to have this free movement of persons and goods—of people and goods. And Prime Minister Kostunica is going to pay a visit to Croatia in the coming month, so we are preparing his visit. And I’m very proud that we reached this level of full normalization of relationship between Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro. Secondly, we, as you all know, we are fighting for the membership in EU and NATO.

Croatia is actually conducting the parallel policy. The one is towards EU and NATO membership, and the other is at the same time, with the same goal, is the policy towards our neighborhood, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia. And I strongly believe that the EU, this old project of united Europe, could not be completed without this part of Europe. This part of Europe is at the heart of Europe. It is still lots of work to be done which lies ahead, but all those people from Bosnia, from Serbia, from Macedonia, from Albania have to have this clear perspective, this bright horizon because EU, certainly also NATO membership, but EU is the most important incentive for them and the tool, so to say, and wish to join this association, and in order to be prepared to go through very, very deep and strong reforms—what Croatia is already doing.

And I’m also going to acknowledge the former government—the Social Democrat government of the former Prime Minister [Ivica] Racan; they did also a great job for Croatia’s approach towards the EU and NATO. And in order to overcome the problems and to avoid useless political debate in Croatia on the most important issues of our nation, of our country, which is EU, which is NATO and also the reforms, which could lead to the membership, I invited all parliamentarian political parties to join me and to create a so-called—I call it alliance for Europe. So we created a national committee in the parliament and I offered to the former prime minister, and now opposition leader in the parliament, to head this—to lead this committee, which has a main task to follow the negotiations with the European Union.

So we have among leading political forces in Croatia, which includes all political parties represented in the parliament, we have created this committee and that means that all of them will be included in the process of negotiations with the European Union. We have achieved with that creation two goals. The first one is to avoid, as I said, useless political debate—endless political debates on some issues within the negotiation, first. And second, to be very frank, we have much more stronger than if only the government is involved in the negotiations with the Union, and then we have on the other side of the table EU Commission which is negotiating with us, and in the negotiations you fight always, and we have the opposition who is attacking the government. So now we have the opposition along with the government on the same side of the table, and I’m sure that we are much stronger in the coming negotiations with the EU.

But negotiations didn’t start, ladies and gentlemen. We were supposed to start on March 17th. That was the decision by the European Council. European Council is the highest body in the EU, consisting of the prime ministers. They decided in December that Croatia had to start in March, March 17th this year, but we didn’t because of one reason and all of you know the reason. The reason is the case of the indicted [General] Ante Gotovina. One of our obligations is the full cooperation with the International Criminal Court and the Hague Tribunal. And I’m going to be very clear and very strong in my commitment here today, and yesterday, and tomorrow, in the U.S. or in Europe: Croatia under my leadership is strongly committed to rule of law, which includes the position that if anyone is indicted he has to stand trial. There is no exception on that.

So we, as you know, during our mandate some nine Croatian citizens have been indicted in the year 2004—last year—and all of them voluntarily surrendered, went to the Hague, and eight out of nine have been now provisionally released. That wouldn’t be without full cooperation of the government. So The Hague Tribunal trusts the government because they released those indictees to prepare for the process freely in Croatia. And they are in Croatia now—eight of them; the ninth is still in the Hague, Mr. [Miroslav] Bralo. And there has been a tenth indictment this year against Mr. [Ljube] Boshkovski, who is Croatian and Macedonian citizen. He has Croatian citizenship, but he was the Macedonian minister of interior in the past years. He has been indicted and he has been delivered to The Hague.

So we have accomplished all requirements from the Tribunal and they have this—it’s not only international obligation, I would like to stress that this is also our domestic obligation because we stand—we are committed to rule of law, and we have past ten years ago. As Dan Serwer and Carl Bildt and Thomas [Melady] and others were in Croatia, we passed the law on cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. There is a constitutional law on cooperation with this tribunal, so we have to fulfill this.

Now, all information I got from our services—we can elaborate this even later on—I’m not leading to the conclusion that Gotovina is in Croatia. So we don’t know his whereabouts and that’s my problem, because I cannot—it’s always almost impossible to prove that someone is not in the country. For that reason, the EU, because of the fact that Gotovina is not in The Hague, the EU postponed the negotiations with Croatia. I’m not sure that it was the right decision because I believe that even if we start with negotiations and when we start and I believe that we can—we are going to start very soon, that you can always suspend the negotiations because this case of General Gotovina, which we have to resolve—remains our obligations even if we start the negotiations with the EU. And the EU has this suspending clause. It could always suspend negotiations.

So I believe that. And let me inform you on what we have done after this decision by the EU in March. I presented one month later an action plan—an action plan how to resolve this issue. This action plan has been presented to the so-called task force created and appointed by the European Union consisting of three foreign ministers. At that time then, presidency Luxembourg, the Foreign Minister [Jean] Asselborn, the current presidency, the British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, and future presidency which is Austria, and the Foreign Minister [Dr.] Ursula Plassnik, three foreign ministers, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, and [Secretary-General] Javier Solana. Those five people are members of the task force, which has to evaluate Croatian cooperation with the Hague Tribunal in this specific case.

And I presented this section plan and I appointed the State Secretary Mr. Hido Biscevic from the ministry of foreign affairs, who is here with me today, and he is coordinating this action plan and I believe that because the fact is that the government has to show that is doing its utmost in order to resolve this issue. And if we cannot get Gotovina in The Hague, we have to show that we are doing our utmost—our maximum and what I want to add is that I am inviting constantly the other member states to help us to resolve this issue.

Gotovina has dual citizenship: he has Croatian and French citizenship, two passports, and so on so forth. So I need the help—and we need the help of member states. And I do believe that when Croatia starts with negotiations that we will move fast and quickly and that we can finish within the time frame of two and half years. Let’s say if we start this year, we can finish the negotiations by the end of ‘07, beginning of ‘08. And our target is to become member by January 1 ‘09 in order to participate in the next European elections in June ‘09.

And the same for NATO. Ladies and gentlemen, there are two approaches now among NATO members and leadership. And I would like to ask you really to support us. What we need is the invitation for Croatia and Albania and Macedonia. We are in the group of A3 and we have—we are moving very fast in the membership action plan.

We finished, we completed the third round of the membership action plan and I believe that we deserve. I know this is not at all a political category to deserve something, but I believe that Croatia has shown a lot of progress even in the MAP—Membership Action Plan—but also in political sense that invitation at the summit in ‘06 we still don’t know where the summit is going to be organized, to Riga, Latvia, or Portugal and that we have to be invited and then to join the association—the alliance in one or two years afterwards. This is important not only for me—for my country, saying “me” meaning the whole country—all citizens of Croatia, but also for other countries in the region.

I’m very glad that the Slovenian ambassador is here with us today, and the example of Slovenia is very good for all for us. And also Croatia could be a very good example—could be a model country for the rest of the Southeast of Europe. For that reason I believe that helping Croatia to start accession negotiations with the European Union, inviting Croatia next year to summit for NATO membership, that we are helping also to achieve that what all of us want to achieve and this is the political stability in the Southeast of Europe.

Croatia is a stable country. Croatia is a functioning democracy. I’m quoting now the European Commission. The European Commission came up—I’m going to finish then—the European Commission came up last year with positive AVI (ph) on Croatia. AVI is the technical word for the opinion, for the decision of the Commission—of the Commission which is the government of the European Union. And they came up with the positive AVI, saying Croatia is a functioning democracy, Croatia is a functioning market economy, and they proposed to the European Council to start the negotiations with Croatia.

So I believe, economically, we are going well. Thank you very much for all of you here, or to them who managed to publish in New York Times three pages, just on the day of my arrival to Washington, on Croatia, which is an excellent PR for my country. Croatia’s tourism is booming. We had the last year the best season ever, but I’m sure that this season will be much better than the last year. So let me invite you. There is still [a] lot to do even in the economy, tourism, but I’m very optimistic and I finish by saying that I don’t know any pessimist who achieved his goal.

Thank you. (Applause.) 

SERWER:  Mr. Prime Minister, there is so much new and refreshing about what you have to say that I, with some hesitation, take you to some of the more difficult issues of your neighborhood. One of the refreshing things for those of you who are not, haven’t been steeped in the Balkans for the last ten years—there was a time when the Croatian prime minister would have denied being in the Balkans or even in Southeast Europe and would have seen his mission as extracting Croatia from that lousy neighborhood rather than cooperating with Serbia or with Macedonia and Albania in getting NATO membership. This is all new and it’s very refreshing indeed.

But there are some difficult parts of your neighborhood. And the two I wanted to ask you about are Montenegro, whose trade representative is here, and Kosovo. These two have difficult decisions ahead of them on the question of status. One of the decisions will be made, let us say, more or less unilaterally either by Serbia or by Montenegro. The other decision will be made by the international community acting through the Security Council. What is Croatia’s attitude on these rougher parts of your neighborhood?

SANADER:  First of all, there will be some differences between our current approach and the approach a decade ago. The current approach—and I’m sure I’m going to disappoint you by saying this—is that Croatia will be a part of the solution and a part of the common EU and U.S. international community policy. So whatever EU decides and the international community decides, we will support it. If you ask me whether I’m having my own opinion on the situation in Kosovo or Montenegro and the future of these two countries, of course I can provide in a private talk, but Croatia will be a part of the solution, a part of the of the position of the EU. We are also obliged to be a part of the EU because EU is promoting a common foreign and security policy and being a candidate country we are obliged to follow this and we are doing this.

So I’m hoping that the solution will be accepted, whatever is going to be, both by Serbs and Kosovars, and that the solution will be—first of all, we have to secure the highest desire and this is peace. And as regards to Montenegro, I met several times with Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and he told me that he is going to organize a referendum on Montenegro’s independence and whatever the decision will be, we have to respect this, but still again Croatia will be a part of the international community. Perhaps I’m a little bit disappointed you, but this is I think the best way how to contribute to the political stability of the region.

SERWER:  I’m not disappointed at all. Mike—do we have a microphone?

Yeah?

QUESTIONER:  I’m Mike Haltzel (ph). Is this on? Yes? No?

SANADER:  Yes.

QUESTIONER:  I’m Mike Haltzel, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary [US LLP]. Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to return to the question of Croatia’s membership in the European Union, and you made a very persuasive case for it. You mention the European Council, you mention the European Commission, but I think after the referenda on the draft constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands, I think there is an additional powerful factor; namely, public opinion in the countries of the European Union.

SANADER:  Yes.

QUESTIONER:  And I have to say, I think that’s an additional problem that Croatia is going to have to face. I know you know this, but there are many reasons for the no votes in the two referenda; clearly, enlargement fatigue was one of the reasons. The commission just issued results of a poll two days ago, mainly with regard to Turkey. And I know Turkey is not Croatia, nonetheless I think it was 52 to 35 against Turkish membership; tremendously low percentages in Austria and France, and those two countries have said that they would need referenda in their countries on Turkish membership before they could clear the European Union.

So what I’m basically asking, are you, do you perceive a change in public opinion in the European Union in the last few months, and if so, is your government adapting a strategy to meet that change? Thank you.

SANADER:  Thank you, Michael. Those two no referenda in France and Netherlands are very strong signals to the EU and the European leaders that there is a gap between the political leadership and the citizens, and I think if we underestimate this gap we will be doing wrong. But in the same time, I would like to say that because of those two no referenda—thanks God, Luxembourg voted yes, and so Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who did a great job as EU president, saved his duty as a prime minister because he connected this with the outcome of the referendum and—but I have to say that in spite of those two no referenda, and the decision of the British government to postpone the date of the referendum next year, which is going to be next year in ‘06 in the UK, that the EU has to accept this warning signal by the citizens in the two leading countries—France and Netherlands are two leading countries within the EU—and to have some time for introspection too—because it is on the one hand, as you rightly said, connected with the Turkey issue, but in the same time also with the domestic issues, domestic political scene, and thirdly with the fact that there is a lack of communicating [in] Europe.

I’m very active in European fora, in the EPP Party, and the party leader summit, in other fora, and my ministers, but still there is need to do more to communicate Europe to our citizens. So communicating Europe remains our main, main obligation for the future, but the essential question for me as a prime minister of a nonmember state, of a candidate country, is what we are going to do in the future, having in mind the European history, which is characterized by wars, tragedies, bloodshed, conflicts, and confrontations.

If we want to avoid this European history and to create a new perspective—perspective of freedom, of peace, of cooperation instead of confrontation—there is no alternative to the EU. So I strongly believe that EU is the only way to—for—the European future for all countries and all nations of the European continent. This is the only way. The alternative could only be the new confrontation, and we have seen in the last EU summit. For instance, the debate on the finance perspective for next years has been again a reason for strong rivalry between leading countries. So there is no alternative to the European Union. I’m often criticizing Croatia in my county that I’m a convinced European and that I am pushing this issue. Yes, I’m doing this not only because of Croatia, but because of the whole continent.

Our continent has passed through very difficult history and if we want Europe to be whole and free, to have this bright prospect, this bright future, the EU is the only way. So I think that those two no referenda are the reason for European leaders to have this introspection, to have this time. But in the same time they should not forget the enlargement because I think that it could be done both in the parallel process—the introspection—and the negotiations with Croatia and with Turkey, and Turkey should start the negotiations by October 3rd if the progress report is positive.

So I believe that the EU should come up with a decision very soon that, okay, these two no referenda we have to respect. We have to—especially in France, especially Netherlands there are small differences. There is a small difference between the referendum in France and Netherlands. In Netherlands is—(foreign speech).

MR.:  (Off microphone.)

SANADER:  Advisory. Advisory referendum. It is not binding, but I’m sure that the government is not going to push the ratification in the parliament procedure having this no referendum. They could do it, but [Dutch Prime-Minister and current president of the EU] Jan Peter Balkenende, I know him very well. I’m sure he is not going to do that because it would be not very much—not smart to—after no vote to push it through the parliamentary procedure.

But, again, I think the time has come to have this introspection, to reconsider the situation and especially this gap between the political leadership, between Brussels and our citizens, but in the same time EU has to have enough courage to go with negotiation—with accession negotiations and to further enlarging process.

SERWER:  I have to wonder what happens if—what if enlargement is postponed for a long time? What’s the strategy? What approach will you take?

SANADER:  Croatia? The reforms we are doing and preparing for—for the next time—we are preparing, for instance, a new health reform to be discussed in the autumn in the government and in the parliament, we will be doing this without EU and NATO, we know what Croatia has to do, we know where we have to go, and we know what we have to reach and this is standard of living of Croatian citizens, recovery of our economy, and catching up with leading European countries. That’s what we are aiming to do without EU and NATO. And EU and NATO certainly could serve as an incentive, but that’s our work and that’s what we will be doing without EU and NATO.

I will be fighting—I promise you then, I will be fighting among the European structures for early accession of Croatia because it would be of the utmost importance for Croatia, for the EU. It will be of benefit for the European Union, but also for the rest of the region. As I started with this policy in late ‘03, I knew—and we got some impacts from Serbia, from Bosnia, and the people were looking at Croatia and the new government, what we are doing, and I think this is the way how to overcome the history, how to overcome the disputes from the past and to work together, to cooperate together for the future.

But EU remains, as I said, historic project of historical importance for our continent and for our country, for the whole southeast of Europe, and I am sure that European leaders will find enough courage and strength to conduct the European Union in this way.

SERWER:  What about the Americans? You came here to strengthen bilateral ties. This is a country that has, well, is forgetting about the Balkans. Let’s put it that way. Southeastern Europe does not loom large in Washington today the way it did 10 years ago. What did you get out of the Americans? What were you seeking? What did you get? And how do you read their attitude towards the main issues in the Balkans today?

SANADER:  I had a meeting along with the other prime ministers and party leaders of the IDU—a very good meeting with President [George W.] Bush yesterday and then I met with the National Security Adviser [Stephen] Hadley, and I am going now to meet in the House with a Subcommittee on Europe. Is it correct, Nevin? Ambassador? Yes. And my message—my main message was to support Croatia on this way because I strongly believe in transatlantic partnership. So EU project is not isolated and is not out of the focus of the U.S., and I mean that I am strongly believing in this partnership, so whatever happens in Europe, it affects the U.S. Whatever happens in the U.S., it affects Europe. And I think no one could be, let me say, selfish in order to forget the other one.

So I think that Europe and America have all historical reasons to be together. The U.S. has always been of assistance to us throughout 20th century, in the First World War, World War II, and in the war in former Yugoslavia, in Croatia, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Without American leadership—I am telling this also in Europe—without American leadership we couldn’t reach peace in Bosnia with the Dayton Peace Accords and you have been involved in this, Dan. And let me once again thank you for your personal engagement and help and assistance in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We discussed a lot, as you mentioned in—at the outset of this meeting. So without U.S. leadership—American leadership at that time [Ambassador] Richard Holbrooke and others, and President [Bill] Clinton and Secretaries [Warren] Christopher and [Madeleine] Albright, we couldn’t reach this peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

And as we are going to prepare the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accord in November this year, I am sure that we have to keep in mind and not forget that the U.S. have always been of the assistance and of the help to Europe. So I think that this partnership, even after Iraq now, we have to rebuild and I am strongly—I am always—in favor of this partnership and of this transatlantic deep and strong tie. So I believe that the American administration will not forget our part of the world, our part of Europe.

And my message was, I was, asking the president yesterday and National Security Advisor Hadley to support Croatia on its way to NATO and Europe. Why NATO? Perhaps a few words—if you allow me, a few words on NATO. What does it mean NATO for us? What does it mean NATO to us? It is about values. It is certainly an alliance, but for us it’s about values—common values which we share with you, and this is the main reason for me to promote NATO membership of Croatia.

SERWER:  Please.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you. Jeff Price—[unintelligible]—and Johnson.

Mr. Prime Minister, another question about your neighborhood, if you will indulge me. It has been 10 years since NATO’s intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I wonder if you could reflect on the progress that has been made in that part of your neighborhood in the last 10 years, and what the prospects are for future progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and integration into Europe.

SANADER:  I think that a lot has been achieved in the past 10 years, but again I have to stress that Dayton Peace Accord—in the past 10 years, a lot of people criticized Dayton saying this is not an ideal agreement—accord. They might be right, but the main achievement of Dayton was peace. Dayton stopped the war and if we remember the television pictures from that time, all what’s happening—what was happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the genocide in Srebrenica and the possible genocide in Bihac if there were no storm operation of Croatia to liberate our country along with Bosnian army, which liberated the siege of Bihac, it would be another Srebrenica in Bihac, so I think that Dayton has achieved enormously: that was the freedom and peace.

Now the time has come to reconsider. There are certainly some weak moments or weak aspects in this and three nations there, Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats, along with other citizens. There are still national parties leading in the political life, but there are also some parties, which have been created without national character. I think they have to consider, along with the international community, but my wish would be as a neighbor for Bosnia-Herzegovina that we find a way how to emancipate this country. And the emancipation of Bosnia-Herzegovina means that they should be able to decide on their future. That’s the best way, but we have—the international forces—to stay there still and to help them, and we are helping also a lot. In the next two weeks, August 4th, the Bosnian Prime Minister [Adnan] Terzic is coming to official visit to Zagreb. So as much as we can contribute in normalizing and signing—there will be a few bilateral agreements signed at this occasion—we will do. So our work is to help our Bosnian friends to overcome the problems.

There are still disputes and debates and so on. There is constitution debated and I believe that—but the aim—the objective should be Bosnia-Herzegovina without international presence: emancipation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I see Victor Jackovich, who was the American ambassador to Bosnia, and I am sure he is going to agree with me.

SERWER:  Also Carl Bildt, too.

SANADER:  And Carl Bildt, too.

SERWER:  Would like to see it emancipated from the high representative.

One more question.

QUESTIONER:  Garrett Mitchell from the Mitchell Report.

Mr. Prime Minister, what I’d be interested in knowing is how important to your domestic-political constituencies are the memberships that you talk about in the EU, NATO, et cetera? How important is that to the man and woman on the street in your country? And while you are at it, what are the two or three most important things on their mind right now?

SANADER:  It’s a very good question. Thank you very much for raising this issue. I believe that—first, I have to inform you that the public support for the membership of Croatia in the EU and NATO has been reduced. A couple of years ago EU was supported by 75 percent of the Croatian citizens; now less than 50 percent. The last polls are, not 35, 40-something. We have Croatian journalists here. What is the—what are the last polls? Forty-nine, but is less than 50 percent. NATO even worse, NATO is less.

What is the reason for that is—I think there are two reasons. First is the fact that we didn’t start the negotiations with EU and that we didn’t get the invitation for NATO membership—first. Second, is the fact that the people, and this is connected with your—with the second half of your question—second part of your question, and this is the wish of the people to have higher standard of living, and they don’t connect it too much with NATO and the EU membership. Even if I’m sure that it is very much connected with both of them, but still this is—and this what we have to do, what the government has to do is the same what I was talking to the Europeans telling to—in the connection with no referenda in France and Germany among the member states, that there is need to communicate Europe more; the same in Croatia. So my government, especially ministry of foreign affairs and European integration—we have a unique ministry for foreign affairs and European integration—and we have to communicate Europe. And the Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will be next week here in Washington, DC, having two lectures. What institutes? What organizations?

MR.:  (Off mike.)

SANADER:  Okay. And her objective is we created a national forum, which has actually a unique task to go to all counties in Croatia and to communicate what is European Union and what are the benefits of the membership of EU and NATO.

SERWER:  Mr. Prime Minister, I’m going to cut us off, because of your schedule, a couple of minutes early, but I think everyone would join me in saying that you’ve done a remarkable job and we wish you well.

SANADER:  Thank you very much. (Applause.)  Thank you. (Applause.) 

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