On this day, we remember an extraordinary date in our modern history, May 30, 1990, when the first democratically elected multi-party Parliament was constituted and the highest Croatian officials were elected. Then the path to democratic transformation and the realization of a sovereign and independent Croatian state was finally opened.
On that occasion, the first Croatian president Dr. Franjo Tuđman, emphasized that this is the first step on the way to return the Croatian nation and state to the European civilizational, cultural and political-economic tradition. However, unlike the majority of Central European nations, who peacefully freed themselves from the communist regime and exercised their right to self-determination, the Croatian people had to defend their democracy and freedom in the pending Homeland War. Not everyone was reconciled with the idea of independent and democratic Croatia.
Thanks to the decisive leadership, visionary and diplomatic skill of President Tuđman, the unity of homeland Croatia and Croatia in exile, and above all the courage of the Croatian defenders, the long-standing desire of the Croatian people for a free state was realized under the conditions of the imposed war. The Independence War was and should remain the foundation of freedom and sovereignty on which we build our present and also our future.
This is precisely why we believe that today we should strongly and sincerely support the efforts of the Ukrainian people, who in the same way just want to enjoy their full freedom and create conditions to live in peace and democracy. In order to achieve full sovereignty of Ukraine on its entire territory, diplomatic skill is also necessary in addition to defence against Russian aggression, in order to stabilize that area. The same is true of our neighbourhood, i.e. Southeast Europe, and thus of entire Europe.
In the achievement of our goals, under such particularly difficult circumstances, Croatian diplomacy became a modern foreign service and played a special role. Parallel to the Independence War and the achievement of the main military-political and strategic goals, we also achieved the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia, the establishment of diplomatic relations with a number of countries, membership of the UN and the full affirmation of the state on the international level. At that time, our priorities were ending the Greater Serbian aggression, reinforcing and defending the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Croatia, taking care of hundreds of thousands of our own displaced persons and of refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina of all nationalities, and the peaceful reintegration of the occupied territories.
Just how much we have achieved in the meantime and how much our priorities have changed in a relatively short period is clear from the sheer number of the political and economic goals achieved. The most significant among them are the admission of the Republic of Croatia to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Croatia has become a reliable and relevant partner at the international level.
In a month's time, we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of our membership of the Union, where we independently decide our own destiny, but we are also an equal participant in deciding the future of the community of free European nations. We participate in further development of the European project, but we never lose sight of our own national interests. Today, with the support of EU funds, we are successfully changing and building Croatia, and the best example is the construction of the Pelješac Bridge connecting the Croatian south and north.
We recently rounded off our efforts by joining the Schengen Agreement and the Eurozone, which made the Republic of Croatia part of the core of European integration. Here we must not forget that full equality of Croats as a constituent nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, care for Croatian emigrants and Croatian minorities in neighbouring and other European countries still constitute some of our main foreign policy priorities. And while many challenges still lie ahead regarding further organization and economic development of our country, we have created a quality framework for a better life for the Croatian people and all our citizens in a free Croatia for the present and future generations.
My heartfelt greetings for the Croatian Statehood Day go out to all Croats and Croatian citizens in Croatia and abroad!