Address of the president Mesić at the reception for the diplomatic corps
Mesdames and Messrs. Ambassadors,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
First of all I would like to sincerely thank you for your kind words and good wishes. I am pleased to greet you now at the beginning of the year 2004 and wish you and members of your families personal happiness, success and good health in the New Year.
Croatia has an election year behind it. I believe that we all share the view that the parliamentary elections, the process of forming a new government and the transfer of power have been successful and consistent with all democratic requirements and usual practice. By going to the polls and casting their votes Croatian citizens have reaffirmed their democratic right and charged the new government of the Republic of Croatia with goals that should be reached in the forthcoming period.
The votes and messages of the electorate have been unambiguous: "we want to implement and complete reforms of the transitional period as soon as possible", "we want to revitalize the Croatian economy", "we want to raise the standard of living in Croatia". As President, let me point out my profound conviction that this is the message of all citizens, all political options and all social groups. I am positive that - in co-operation with the newly elected Government – I will continue to pursue these goals and hope to be successful in their accomplishment.
Last year was clearly a "European year" too. Ten states in transition have fully completed their preparations for the most extensive European enlargement so far. Croatia, which drew closer to the process with a certain delay, also made some major breakthroughs in 2003 towards the status that will enable the start of negotiations and a full harmonization of all segments of society with European Union standards.
My personal view is that the will of the electorate, the election of a new legislative and executive branches of government and European processes are not only mutually tied interests but rather goals that have a catalytic effect on one another. In this respect, in the New Year I see the position and office of the President in giving incentives for completion of reforms, development and strengthening of all European processes as well as development of the Croatian economy. In doing so I shall co-operate with all other bodies and institutions of the Croatian state.
Croatia has not fulfilled all of its obligations although many issues, that the international community or our regional neighbourhood used to be occupied with, no longer represent problems. I am confident that I shall, together with the new government, successfully close those still open chapters that are definitely consequences of circumstances of the past decade.
The right of refugees and displaced persons to return and the right to restitution of their property must not be contested and their implementation must not be slowed down. Since I took this office, I have advocated this right and will continue to do so. At the same time, I invite all representatives of the international community to transform their huge humanitarian engagement to date into projects of economic development in order to facilitate the implementation of the right to return from a financial aspect too.
It is impossible to heal the wounds of war, fear and hatred if those who committed crimes during the conflicts in this area do not answer for them. In order to restore confidence both among the returnees and among other ethnic communities we have to find individual culprits, individuals responsible for crimes rather than put the blame on collective bodies, or national groups. The political leadership in each and every state of this region has to stand up for such treatment and has to assume responsibility for it. Croatia will persevere on this path in co-operation with the international community.
Democracy in this region will always be vulnerable if minorities are not adequately protected. The standards of minority protection and their practical implementation simply have to take hold both in Croatia as well as in the entire southeast Europe, in the same way as it happened in many other transitional states too. Croatia can and will fulfil its share of responsibilities and commitments.
Finally, let me assure you that Croatian policy towards neighbouring countries and Southeast Europe remains the same. We do not want to leave individual outstanding issues to next generations. We do not want to build European walls along Croatian borders. We want to keep a door for co-operation and agreement open. We believe that the same messages come also from other sides.
On this day twelve years ago when Croatia became a recognized member of the international community I also wish to emphasise that Croatia not only remains committed to the principles of the United Nations but is also very much interested in strengthening the role of the most significant world organisation both in issues of development and crisis.
Mesdames and Messrs Ambassadors,
Many of you have not only followed the developments in Croatia and its transitional process for some time, but also lived with it. A large part of this process is already behind us. Democracy is a sum of small steps made but also a never ending process. Democracy is not a state but a continuing process. Croatia will certainly go on along the same course. As I have done during the last four years in office I shall use my influence for the development of both democratic and economic processes in Croatia. I shall make efforts for Croatia to be identified and recognized as a country ready to co-operate with its neighbours, with European states and with all other partners outside Europe.
In conclusion, may I ask you to convey my sincere wishes for a successful and happy year 2004 to all heads of states and organisations you represent and wish your citizens a year of peace and development.
I invite you to carry on our co-operation at working meetings and also to meet all together at our traditional gathering on the Brijuni Islands in the early summer.