President Stjepan Mesic in Brussels on Wednesday held talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in a bid to strengthen Croatia's candidacy for NATO membership.
The NATO Secretary General said after the talks that he informed Mesic of a recent NATO summit in Riga at which it was decided that in 2008 the alliance would invite Membership Action Plan (MAP) countries to join NATO when they are ready. Croatia, Albania, Macedonia are MAP members. Scheffer said that to receive a NATO invitation it is necessary to continue with reforms, notably in the justice sector, as well as fight against corruption. He said that rasing public support for NATO membership was also important.
Mesic said Croatia had already completed the main defence reform, adding that Croatian armed forced were practically brought within the frameworks of NATO standards.
"Croatia wants to secure a better life for its citizens, and to be able to do that we must fulfil our two strategic objectives - joining NATO and the EU," Mesic said.
He added Croatia would take part in NATO missions for which it believed that it can participate, adding that the role of Croatian soldiers would not be changed.