Stalno vijeće OESC-a

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank Ambassador Semneby for his introductory remarks. His even more detailed written statement is a good outline of the Report itself. When commenting on the Status Report by the OSCE Mission to Croatia presently before the Permanent Council, I would like to start from the obvious. It presents an overarching, detailed and objective snapshot of the situation in Croatia. We highly appreciate that the Report has recognized serious efforts of my Government to both create frameworks for the positive resolution of outstanding issues and its determination to implement them. Now, let there be no misunderstanding: my Government and the Mission might have – and in effect, do have – somewhat different views on several of the points raised in the Report, but the fact remains that it presents the most precise analysis of my country at this point in time. In particular, I would like to pinpoint the positive assessment of the Mission regarding the adoption of the Constitutional Law on the Rights of the National Minorities and the Government’s Housing Plan. This Housing Plan was presented to the Council late last month, and shortly discussed and praised here only a week ago. We are also pleased with the recognition of our efforts in the comprehensive reform of the judiciary system and highly appreciate the assistance that was provided to us in that respect.

I would like to commend the efforts of the Mission that went into this report, and in particular to praise its Head of Mission Ambassador Peter Semneby for his leadership. The level of cooperation in preparing the Report – once again – is a step forward to what was the previous practice. Ambassador Semneby and I have established a very good both personal and working relationship, which has proven conducive to the efforts of the Mission on more than one occasion. In general, I have to reiterate that the cooperation between the Mission and the Government, which was held on various levels, is constantly improving.

When we speak of the differences, Mr. Chairman, the interested delegations have heard some of them at the informal meeting yesterday, so I shall not repeat them here. Hence, I would like to focus on a more general picture. The periodical reports in the past eight years document a history of progress in Croatia. Along those lines, its twelfth report attests that Croatia relentlessly continues on its path. We can only conclude that twelve consecutively enhanced reports add-up to a very different country than what it was in 1996 – due in part also to the efforts of the OSCE Mission.

Allow me now, Mr. Chairman, to add a few remarks on the general political and economic prospects in Croatia. As I have already said, we need to undergo these reforms for ourselves, not only for Brussels. Integration into core European and Euroatlantic institutions is a genuine political will of the vast majority in Croatian society, and it is a duty and the task of my government to do its utmost in making it a reality.

I am very happy to inform you on a sustainable and increased growth of the Croatian economy. With the GDP comparable to GDPs of acceding Central and East European countries, annual growth of more than 5 % and a steady low inflation rate of less than 3% Croatia is capable of adjusting to the requirements of the modern market economy. According to the estimates of the European Commission, Croatia’s GDP constitutes half of the GDP of the region although its population makes only 20% of the entire population in the region.

As you all know, Croatia has formally applied for the EU membership in February this year, and we hope that the avis will be ready by late spring 2004. We hope to obtain the status of a candidate by mid year and start negotiations with the EU by autumn 2004. Of course, we expect that these positive developments would adequately reflect on the mandate of the OSCE Mission in Croatia and the character of our cooperation with the OSCE in the future. If we keep up the current pace of the progress, we hope that Croatia will be ready to join the Union in 2007. I say that Croatia will be ready because, of course, we understand that a perspective membership also depends on the ability of the Union to absorb all new members. We want to join a strong Union, and are therefore closely following discussions on the internal reforms and the future Constitution.

Croatia is also deeply engaged in regional issues, because peace, stability and prosperity in the neighborhood is of our vital national interest. We hope that the governments in other countries of the Stabilisation and Association process will keep up the reform process, while Croatia remains ready to assist them in the reforms. I am happy to inform you that, despite some difficulties, we have succeeded in marking a continuous progress in our bilateral relations with neighboring countries. The latest sign of that progress is a temporary lifting of a visa regime with Serbia and Montenegro.

Finally, I would like to share with you our strong belief that Southeast Europe is strongly on the path of recovery, and that the overall integration efforts are providing the best possible framework for its future. Croatia is first to start, but we hope that the rest of the region will be able to follow rather soon.

Thank you for your attention.