Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova

We wish a good cooperation with both the Union and the USA

Will the relations with USA be your foreign policy priority? - There are no soloists in the HDZ, our positions are shared, no matter who initiates them. There are no Žužul’s foreign policies, or Biškupić cultural policies, or Vukelić’s economic policies, these are all policies of the government formed by the HDZ and DC parties.

But some may object that this is unipartisan thinking? - No, it isn’t, we are a team which works together. That’s how we also work in foreign policy where we jointly define our strategies. There are no foreign policy differences among us, and if there were any, we’ve ironed them out. This government is definitely committed to EU and NATO membership. In this respect there are no significant differences from the former government, but we do not believe in any division between the European Union and the USA in the sense we should choose between them. We wish a good cooperation with both the Union and the USA.

You are said to have good contacts with USA only, but what about your contacts with the European States? - It’s not true that I am having good contacts with USA only. I used to work in a big US company, but I was a director for Europe, besides I personally know most European prime ministers and foreign ministers. Anyway, it’s wrong to perceive me as a one-sided player. I’ll try to pursue a balanced policy towards USA and the EU.

A part of the public tends to believe that the HDZ is backed only by the conservative European parties or the Bush Republican administration. Is such perception of HDZ too narrow? - Your question is about the HDZ’s standing in the world. However, we are no longer HDZ in this context, we are first of all a Croatian government. We’ll try to maintain good relations with UK, Germany, USA, no matter who happens to be in office there. When it comes to party relations, the fact is that parties sharing similar world outlooks keep together, which particularly applies to Europe. But at the level of governments, it’s an entirely different matter. I personally know many Republicans and Democrats in USA and I was on good terms with both.

The public was quite skeptical about Sanader’s good relations with Silvio Berlusconi who is considered a staunch conservative with a record of what are seen as neo-fascist statements. - Mr. Berlusconi is for us a prime minister of a friendly neighboring country, which is very important to us. Besides, he was chairing the Union and we did care to win his support. We agree with him on many issues, like the one concerning the Transatlantic cooperation or the vision of future Europe, plus some specific matters related to Croatia’s accession to the EU.

How has HDZ managed to restore its marred reputation since 2000 and become today a relevant international agent? - Dr. Sanader and his associates have had a clear vision of what HDZ should be and nothing could swerve him from that. With the passage of time this was increasingly recognized. Only six months ago, in my contacts with people abroad, I noticed that they approved of Sanader’s expressed views, but wondered if these were also the views of HDZ. Recently, however, such dilemmas are heard less and less and a conviction prevails that HDZ has undergone a transition into a normal moderate conservative party which has its roots, but also its clear vision of the future. I wouldn’t like to antagonize my colleagues from other parties, but right now I think HDZ has the clearest vision and is the best defined party in the country.

How good is the international reputation of the Prime Minister and the HDZ? - Very good, both Sanader’s and HDZ’s. Of course, the world will carefully watch HDZ’s actual performance. Dr. Sanader is a person who very easily communicates with the world. Two things are of utmost importance: first, how much you can be trusted, and, second, how well you can communicate and get your message across. Sanader is very good at both.

Now, let’s be realistic, apart from our wishes about Croatia’s EU and NATO membership. As a foreign minister, when do you think these wishes may come true? - The very date is no longer that important, because six months sooner or later makes no difference. What matters to us is to accede together with Romania and Bulgaria, because so far no EU enlargement has taken place on an individual basis. My personal anticipation is that the enlargement will continue in groups. If we miss to enter the European Union with Bulgaria and Romania, the next group will be the States arisen from the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and these States do need some more time to qualify for the EU. In that case, we would get stuck in the waiting room, which means stagnation. All the States which joined the Union had a fast growth, whereas all the others have been lagging behind. The other crucial issue is the accession to NATO. In this respect we shall surely be much more active than the former government. It is theoretically possible that Croatia joins the EU before joining NATO, but I don’t believe in this possibility. All the States which are about to join the EU were previously admitted to NATO, and among the transitional countries there are no exceptions to this rule. We should put every effort to get an invitation for full EU membership until NATO Summit scheduled for 2006. Is it realistic to expect? I’d say, it’s possible, but not as easy as that.

Would you agree with many citizens who feel that Croatia is expected to meet much more conditions for EU membership than some other States? - Sometimes I am inclined to feel the same, although I am aware that other States, too, are expected to fulfill a lot of conditions. Our situation is specific and we feel that many other States had it much easier. We often lacked support, the criteria set before us were sometimes higher, or they seemed so to us. But we have enough strength and determination to cover that way.

Did you have a word with your predecessor Picula about those scandals in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs where even after the elections some persons were assigned to foreign diplomatic missions? - I didn’t, I just had a regular takeover procedure with Picula, but at the Presidency of our party we came to a conclusion that such decisions after the election were improper. I can’t see why it was so urgent to send some people abroad. Such decisions, if any, will be reviewed and revoked, if necessary.

Were such post-election moves designed to create difficulties to the HDZ government? =I wouldn’t qualify it so hard. They didn’t expect our victory, but when they lost the elections, they figured they might still do something for their own staff. They will be no purges or revanchism, but I’ll make no bones about parting company with some who sought political refuge in foreign diplomacy. Diplomacy is no asylum, it is a serious business. We would be irresponsible to our voters and to the country as a whole if we were to act in a different way.

Who will be the state secretary, in other words, your deputy? - I think that the person second in charge at the Ministry will be one with a longstanding diplomatic experience and proven results, but also one with experience as a journalist.

Won’t you disclose who the person will be? - I wouldn’t rush with the name until the appointment has been finally agreed upon. I discussed it with the Prime Minister. I can tell you that it will be a successful diplomat and successful journalist in one person. The readers of your newspaper will easily guess who it is.

Will you replace assistant ministers who are professionals? - Right now I still don’t know, but there will be some reshuffles.

Which will be your first moves towards Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina? =We’ll try and cool it with Slovenia, because we have much more in common than the other way round. The Croats and Slovenes have a millennium record of living side by side without ever having any conflicts. We share the same vision of the future, Slovenia is about to join the EU, and that’s our ambition, too. Sometimes some issues are overplayed. We wish a mutual dialogue, but if this fails, we are ready to resort to international arbitration. We won’t insist on it on the start, but we won’t be running away from it either. If there is no other way out. As for Bosnia-Herzegovina, we’ll go on developing good relations, while, at the same time, taking care of the Croats living there. After all, we are co-signatories of the Dayton Agreement. We have a high sense of responsibility for the fate of the BH Croats, but we are also aware that we are dealing with a sovereign State with which we wish to maintain friendly relations. We’ll be helping the Croats in BH, but their future they must first of all assure in Sarajevo and Mostar. Mind you, Croatia and BH share one of the longest borders in Europe, our economies are interconnected. I believe that the stabilization process in BH will be Europe-bound. Once both Croatia and BH end up in NATO and the EU, there will be no problems any more.

It would make no sense to recall good career diplomats, as they did back in 2000

And the rumors about the forthcoming purges in diplomacy? What will be the guiding criteria? - A veil of mystery has been created here. Diplomacy in all States is subject to changes after an election. During my four and a half year spell in Washington, some States changed two, three ambassadors. The diplomacy of some States is entirely professional and remains unaffected by changes, but most of them combine professional and political diplomacy. Every change of government is followed by changes in diplomacy, and our country is no exception.

Why is it interpreted in Croatia as revanchism? - It is no revanchism. Let some time pass by and you show me someone we have dumped for revenge. In 2000 25 ambassadors and 10 consuls general were replaced, some of them career diplomats. I do not put myself into this category. It was a political option that brought me to my previous position and then, with the change of government, I sought for myself a solution elsewhere. We are a State still in the making, so the political criteria will not be predominant. If somebody joined diplomacy for political reasons only, which is also quite normal, replacement will normally follow with the change of government. But if somebody went abroad as a career diplomat, recall would make no sense if he or she has been doing the job well.

Oversimplified understanding of Sanader’s statement about the Hague

What about Sanader’s statement that in the future the Hague will be a legal, not a political issue? Is it realistic? How can you separate the two aspects? - I think it’s an oversimplified understanding of the Prime Minister’s statement. It would be naive to expect that all of a sudden the Hague will become only a legal, not also a political issue. There is no doubt that the Hague will retain its political connotations in Croatia and beyond. After all, cooperation with the Hague Tribunal is one of the conditions for accession to the EU. What Sanader meant was first of all the operational level of cooperation. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice will be in charge of such operational cooperation. It is above all a legal issue with political implications, but the Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal will continue to exist.

Is there some truth in speculations that you will be responsible for the relations with the Hague? - No, we decided long time ago that this matter would be handled through the Ministry of Justice, not the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Does it mean that the Minister of Justice Vesna Škare Ožbolt will be responsible for the Hague? - The Ministry of Justice will be the responsible authority, but it doesn’t mean that no other Cabinet members will be involved.

Will you replace the members of the Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal? - I don’t know yet.