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Joining NATO Remains Croatia's Strategic Objective

Joining NATO Remains Croatia's Strategic Objective

Remarks by H.E. Jozo Rados, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Defence Ministers session. Brussels, December 19, 2001.

Mr, Secretary General,

Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and honour to be here with you today and take part in this forum. Croatia sees it as an important mechanism for enhancing security and open dialogue in the Euro-Atlantic area based on close cooperation between Allies and Partners.

Croatia's strategic objective is to join NATO. NATO membership is clearly outlined as a strategic national objective in the Croatian Government's Working Programme 2000-2004, as well as in our PfP Presentation Document.

Croatia sees the enlargement of NATO as one of fundamental factors in addressing new threats and challenges and promoting security and co-operation in the Euro-Atlantic area. In addition to the Article V concept of collective defence, Croatia perceives NATO as a security community, sharing common ideals, values and norms, and as the best international example of a co-operative security organisation.

The terrorist attacks on the United States represent a threat to the fundamental principles of democracy and international order and to the same shared values NATO and our countries stand for.

Terrorism neither knows nor respects any borders or limits. Such a non-discriminating threat calls for a global and unified response. A common stand and joint action is the best approach to deal with these and other similar security challenges.

Croatia's Government has strongly condemned the despicable acts and immediately expressed its full support to the international efforts to fight terrorism. Croatia supports the legitimate response of the US-led alliance, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolution.

Here I would like to reiterate Croatia's readiness to contribute to the anti-terrorist efforts at international, regional and national level. As an aspirant country and a member of the Vilnius group, Croatia intends to act as an ally and conduct its foreign policy in support of Allied efforts.

The Croatian Government recently strengthened its support for international efforts to fight terrorism. Particularly, Croatia stands ready to provide direct support, including making its airspace, airports, harbours and other infrastructure available to the United States and other Allies in the international fight against terrorism. Additionally, the Government has committed to providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghani people.

Croatia has undertaken the necessary measures in order to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which we perceive as a binding international platform against terrorism. We have begun preparing a national programme for fighting terrorism and have instructed government agencies to undertake appropriate measures in that regard. In the legal context, the Croatian Government has also started procedures for the accession to and ratification of the legal instruments related to combating terrorism, notably within the framework of the Council of Europe and the United Nations. Additionally, Croatia strongly supports the initiatives aimed at drafting a global convention against terrorism, and is ready to adhere to all measures undertaken in preventing the financial support of terrorist organisations and networks.

NATO and Croatia share common interests of bringing stability and self-sustaining peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatia has been and will continue to be NATO's partner in the efforts to strengthen peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, by providing infrastructure, logistics, intelligence and other support to the SFOR mission.

On a regional level, Croatia is stepping up co-operation with all its neighbours. Regional initiatives, such as the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, NATO's Southeast European Initiative (SEEI), Southeast European Defence Ministerial (SEDM), Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and the Quadrilateral co-operation are perceived as invaluable mechanisms to discuss numerous common security concerns. We hope that the newly established Regional Centre for Assistance and Disaster Relief (RCADR) in Croatia will prove to be an additional useful tool for addressing these security concerns in a more practical way.

Additionally, we are convinced that intensified co-operation in the field of Justice and Home affairs among neighbouring countries, as well as activities going on within a number of regional initiatives, will substantially complement the actions taken on a global level We have tightened border control and are intensively co-operating with our neighbours in that area. Also, we have enhanced the exchange of information with partner countries and have intensified anti-terrorist surveillance. The Croatian Government is considering measures for a comprehensive and more efficient control of export, import, procurement and transfer of weapons at the state level.

Croatia stays committed to fully contributing to the stability and co-operation in the Euro-Atlantic region. In the wake of the terrorist threats the arguments for EU and NATO enlargement have been reinforced and the role of international mechanisms for consultation and co-operation like the EAPC have gained importance.

Croatia welcomes efforts aimed at improving PfP mechanisms and initiatives, particularly concerning the enhancement of Partner roles in shaping the decision-making process. Croatia is ready to fully benefit from all the mechanisms and tools provided within the PIP framework. By expanding its participation in PfP activities, and in particular, in PfP exercises and PARP, Croatia plans to increase the level of interoperability of its forces. We have allocated significant funds hi the 2002 defence budget for implementing our Partnership Goals. Croatia has taken this commitment very seriously, and is relying primarily on national resources, but also on cooperation with and assistance from our bilateral partners.

In order to respond faster and more effectively to demands of contributing to NATO-led PfP operations, Croatia has taken steps to modify and adapt its legal framework. In this regard, last year's changes of the Croatian Constitution enabled Croatia to participate in peace operations. Furthermore, a new Defence Act, as well as an act on participation in international operations - already in parliamentary procedure for adoption -- will clearly outline the procedures, processes and responsibilities of the involved in PSO.

I am pleased to announce that on December 7, 2001, the Croatian Parliament ratified the PfP SOFA. This represents our national commitment to Allies and partners and constitutes an additional building block in developing the necessary legal framework for Croatia's more active role in contributing to international peace and security.

As of 2002 Croatia will have its first unit - a Military Police Platoon - fully ready for NATO-led peace operations.

Finally, we will continue to work very closely with NATO countries, partners and friends to build a more stable and secure environment. As we look to join the MAP process, we will build our case for NATO membership on a solid foundation.

Mister Secretary General, dear colleagues, thank you for your attention.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).