Neven Jurica , Croatian ambassador to the United States
(by Bruno Lopandić)
Zagreb, 2 August 2005
Croatian Ambassador to United States Views Relations Between Two Countries
In the past several months the relations between Croatia and the United States have been discussed with regard to the question whether Croatia had neglected Washington in favor of the EU. We talked to Neven Jurica, Croatian ambassador to the United States, about the relations between the two countries.
[Lopandić] How would you assess the relations between Croatia and the United States?
[Jurica] I would assess them as excellent. The United States understands and supports the Croatian position in the southeast of Europe as a stable and modern democracy that helps the neighboring countries in the region and paves their way toward Euro-Atlantic integration, and Croatia supports and contributes to the United States as the leading world power that broadens the freedom space throughout the world and heads the anti-terrorist coalition.
[Lopandić] Why have the relations with the United States been neglected in the past years time?
[Jurica] I think that in the past year completely wrong assessments were present in the Croatian public about those relations being neglected, and only because, understandably, the Croatian state politics was intensively bringing Croatia closer to the EU. We should note that, parallel with that process, the process of transformation of the Croatian armed forces and of harmonizing our standards with those of the NATO countries was under way and that it was just as intensive. After all, within the framework of the Adriatic Charter - together with Macedonia and Albania - we are now almost at the point of being officially invited to join NATO at the first NATO summit, which will have the Alliance’s enlargement on the agenda. In the past year’s time the United States has, on the global scale, taken the position of the leading superpower in stabilizing the sore spots in the world, in broadening the global space of democracy and freedom, and in developing very complex and sophisticated mechanisms for preventing international terrorism and the spreading of mass destruction weapons. Those processes were dramatically fast and Croatia was catching up. Today, however, Croatia is precisely and appropriately positioned as a reliable U.S. partner in the context of the so-called collective or cooperative security. Croatia is part of the PSI initiative (Proliferation Security Initiative), it holds military exercises together with the United States, it chairs the Anti-Proliferation Table (South-East European Defense Ministerial), and is involved in a package of security arrangements.
[Lopandić] What are the specific results of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader’s visit to the United States and of Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s [foreign minister and minister of European integration] talks in Washington?
[Jurica] Prime Minister Sanader had talks at the highest level in Washington, and he was received literally in all the most important places where major political issues are decided on. I can tell you that that visit was assessed as excellent and exceptionally successful in official U.S. circles. The United States supports Croatia’s accession to the EU and NATO and supports the policy conducted by Prime Minister Sanader’s government in relation to Southeast Europe, in the direction of stabilization and normalization of the situation. Croatia has, without reservation, been recognized as a country of stable and developed democracy with clear European prospects. Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s visit came as operationalization, or working out in detail, of the issues that Prime Minister Sanader had raised.
[Lopandić] Is the United States still dissatisfied with Croatia for not signing the bilateral agreement on non-extradition of Americans to the International Criminal Court?
[Jurica] The U.S. administration will always go back to the issue of the so-called Article 98 because to them it is a vital issue. However, the United States knows that in that Croatia is bound by its relations with the EU. I think that further continuation of the dialogue would also be useful there.
[Lopandić] How does the United States see the implementation of the Action Plan?
[Jurica] The United States is actively keeping up with the implementation of the Action Plan. It is well known that the U.S. position on that issue is principled and consistent. The United States very much acknowledges the efforts made by President Stjepan Mesić, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, and his team. I think that there are realistic reasons and space for complete optimism.
[Lopandić] Can Croatia count on U.S. support in NATO?
[Jurica] There is no doubt that Croatia will be invited to join NATO as a full member at the very next NATO summit.
[Lopandić] Some political options in Croatia have proposed that, if Croatia does not succeed with the EU, it should turn to the United States. What do you think about that strategy?
[Jurica] I think that is a wrongly posited strategy, as if there were an alternative that excluded Europe or America. I think that the issue is Euro-Atlantic togetherness in which one complements the other. So it is both Europe and America. One does not rule out the other.
[Lopandić] Does the United States still seek from Croatia a more substantial involvement in Iraq?
[Jurica] Let me remind you that in the training center in Jordan we have our police experts who train Iraqi police officers. Croatia has exchanged diplomatic notes with the Iraqi Government and is opening a special diplomatic mission in Iraq. We have offered to provide expert help in the preparation of the new constitution of the free, democratic Iraq, we have provided forensic assistance, assistance in the medical treatment of Iraqi children, we have offered to donate military equipment to the Iraqi army, and there are Croatian companies that are interested in reconstructing Iraq. Naturally, there is always more space for further cooperation.