Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova

Japan Press Club

Address of H. E. Gordan Jandroković, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Croatia,
    at the Japan Press Club

Tokyo, 8th September 2010

Highlights of the Croatian Foreign Policy

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first express my great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak before the representatives of the Japanese media during my first bilateral visit to Japan.

I am sure that the great beauty of your country and the planned visits to some of its famous historic and cultural sites will make my stay in Japan memorable. 

I am really looking forward to all the meetings that I will have here in the next couple of days.

I have just met H. E. Takeo Nishioka, Speaker of the House of Councilors, who was my first esteemed interlocutor.

Once again we have confirmed very good and friendly relations between Croatia and Japan.

Our parliaments and parliamentarians, particularly those participating in friendship groups, have significantly contributed to building strong relations over the years and continue to do so.

That is just one of the strong bonds that connect Croatia and Japan.

I would like to briefly mention some other aspects of our relations that we highly appreciate.

Croatia has in the last twelve years received a total of 4 million Euros in development aid from Japan.

And, which is equally important to us, we have received 1.3 million in donations for demining.

The strong support that the Japanese project Mayors for Peace has seen in Croatia witnesses that we share the same feeling for human solidarity.

So far 31 mayors of Croatian cities had joined it, including the current vice-president, the mayor of Biograd na Moru. 

Our countries also share a passionate love of sports, notably football, which has brought Croatia and Japan even closer during your hosting of the World Cup in 2002.

The warm hospitality shown to our national team in Tokamachi has sparked the idea to build a Croatian-Japanese friendship house in that city.

I am happy to say that the project will soon be underway and is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Moreover, I am very pleased to say that it is quite clear that both our countries wish to get to know one another even better.

We share a keen interest in each other's views on a range of global issues, as well as in the possibilities of getting the most out of the potentials of our bilateral cooperation.

Today I will discuss foreign policy issues with my gracious host, my Japanese colleague H.E. Katsuya Okada.

Tomorrow I will also meet other Japanese high officials to whom I will also present the most recent political, economic and other developments in Croatia and South East Europe.

Ever since gaining independence in 1991, Croatia’s main foreign policy priorities were related to the Euro-Atlantic integration processes, to joining the European Union and NATO.

We are very proud that our ambition and a lot of hard work involved in achieving those priorities has paid off.

As of last year, Croatia is a full and active member of NATO.

When it comes to the strategic goal that is still to be attained, we can state that today Croatia stands at the very doorstep of the EU.

Croatia has undergone the most rigorous EU accession negotiations so far.

The far-reaching reforms, even as they might be a necessary precondition for entering the EU, we have undertaken first and foremost for our own sake - for the sake of our citizens, for the sake of their better future.

Our hard work is bearing fruit.
We are, as I like to put it, running the final lap in our EU accession negotiations, determined to achieve the goal of EU membership in 2012.

The significance of our achievements in the EU framework, as well as that of NATO, transcends Croatia’s borders.

It sends an important signal to all the countries that will follow on our path.

The European integration perspective has a crucial stabilizing and developmental potential for our region where Croatia’s leading role has been recognized.

And this we owe not only to our achievements within the Euro-Atlantic framework.

It is to a large extent also owed to the fact that Croatia pays particular attention to advancing good bilateral relations with its neighbors and to comprehensive regional cooperation as ways to ensure a better future for all involved.

I believe that Croatian government's political will and vision are crucial in creating a positive atmosphere of trust, aimed at ensuring a long term stability and development of SEE.
We are doing our share in the region, as we are aware that its stability influences not only us in the immediate neighborhood, but also Europe and beyond.

And this understanding is what underlies our engagement on the broader international scene.
The Croatian contribution to stabilizing Afghanistan is a point in case.

Our contingent in ISAF numbers 300 troops and we are strongly committed to strengthening security, training Afghan forces and rebuilding the country.

I know that the same goals are shared by Japan, a major financial contributor in Afghanistan.

That is why I hope that the proposed cooperation between our two countries within the scope of a Provincial Reconstruction Team geared towards satisfying basic civilian needs in Afghanistan will be successfully realized.

And precisely these concerted multidimensional efforts are what is needed to ensure global security.

Being aware of that, Croatia is not only present in Afghanistan, but also contributes to 13 other peace missions around the world - be it under the auspices of NATO, United Nations or European Union. 

Croatia and Japan also attach great importance to an efficient multilateral approach in international relations.

Both countries are responsible and active participants in multilateral fora, holding non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council in 2009.

This is another proof of how Croatia’s international stature has grown since the early 1990s.

Mrs. Sadako Ogata, who now heads the Japan International Cooperation Agency and with whom I will meet tomorrow, was at the time the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and involved in assisting Croatia.

But today - for example – Croatia’s former Minister of Justice Mr. Ivan Šimonović, holds the office of the Assistant UN Secretary General for human rights.

Along with our achievements with regard to the membership in NATO and the EU, our leading role in South East Europe and our engagement on the broader international scene, there is another important determinant of Croatia’s foreign policy.

And this is undoubtedly strengthening economic ties with all our partners across the globe.

We place great importance on bolstering Croatian exports and attracting foreign investors to Croatia.

Its free, open, transparent market offers a competitive advantage in terms of its geographical location and inter-European traffic connections.

Possibilities are numerous, which is why the improvement of Croatian-Japanese economic and trade cooperation should receive the attention it certainly deserves.

I am pleased that during this, unfortunately relatively short visit to Japan, two very important gatherings of the Croatian and Japanese business communities will take place.

And it is my sincere hope that they will contribute to fostering both opportunities to diversify Croatian exports to Japan, as well as induce a new investment cycle of Japanese companies in Croatia.
Even though there might exist certain structural differences between our economies, we should seek for ways to make full use of the competitive advantages that we can offer to each other.
And finally, let me turn to an economic field in which Croatia has had extremely encouraging trends throughout the last decade, namely tourism.

In the first seven months of 2010, 5.5 million tourists visited Croatia, that is, 3% more than in the same period last year.
Statistical data show that for example in July this year, only a month ago, we had 2.7 million tourists visiting Croatia, a country of 4 million inhabitants.

It is 9% more than in the same month last year.

We are extremely pleased that Japanese tourists are choosing Croatia for their holiday destination in increasing numbers.

 I believe that Croatia’s participation at 2005 EXPO in Aichi marked a breakthrough in that regard.
In 2009 we hosted some 165 thousand Japanese tourists.

Hopefully, considering that we have invested great efforts to promote Croatian cultural heritage, tradition and unspoiled nature in Japan, we will close 2010 with even better figures.
It is my sincere hope that you yourselves will come to Croatia and discover it first-hand.

But, before you do, take your chance to get at least a second-hand impression by asking me everything that might be of your interest and the interest of your readers.