Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome once again the President of the United States of America to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
Mr. President, you are not the first President of the United States to visit Croatia and Zagreb, but you are certainly the first President of the United States to visit the independent Croatian state officially. This makes your visit additionally relevant.
Croatia is a small country with a tradition of statehood which can be traced back to the distant tenth century. However, it has appeared on the political map of the world as an independent country less than twenty years ago. The United States is indisputably the leading world power, and its history spans somewhat more than two centuries. However, in such a relatively short time the United States has given, in two global conflicts, an incalculable contribution to the fight against evil and tyranny, and to the victory of freedom and democracy.
I shall not spend too many words in reminding you of the many historic ties between our two countries - from the Croatian community in America and Croatian immigrants like the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla, through the fact that Dubrovnik, the jewel of the Croatian Adriatic, then an independent republic, was among the first to recognize the young United States, all the way to our alliance in the war against Nazism and fascism and the cooperation we had in the times when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia. That, as I said, is the past, but a past which must be known and on the foundations of which we must continue to build.
And what we have to build, however different we may be - in terms of size, strength and potential, occasionally also in terms of views regarding a particular issue - is a world of peace, security and stability, a world of progress and prosperity for all.
We have to build mutual trust and appreciation regardless of differences, even in spite of differences. Constructive talk is possible only in conditions of mutual trust, and the idea that all outstanding issues can and must be resolved by negotiation can become reality only on such terms.
We live in a world encumbered by many problems, and we are faced by many challenges. We can only withstand them together, in a harmonized way, by proceeding from the awareness that problems like global terrorism, regional crises, poverty, global warming and destruction of the environment are problems affecting all of us, perhaps not to the same extent or at the same time. These are indisputably problems affecting every state and we can deal with them, let me repeat, only jointly. Having said that, I certainly have in mind the role which the United Nations can and must play.
I can note with pleasure that the relations between Croatia and the United States are on the upswing. Let me reiterate a point I have made many times: Croatia offers the hand of friendship to everyone wishing to cooperate with it in conditions of equality and satisfaction of mutual interests. I have already mentioned that Croatia is a small country. We need and seek allies and friends throughout the world - allies and friends who will wish to cooperate with us while respecting our identity and our special qualities, taking due account of their and our national interests, and proceeding from the fact that a policy based on meeting interests is not inconsistent with a policy relying on certain firm principles.
I believe that Croatia can have precisely such an ally and friend in the United States.
Let me use this opportunity to thank you for the support given by the United States in the achievement of two priority goals of Croatia’s foreign policy: accession to the European Union and to NATO. By receiving the invitation for NATO at the recent Bucharest Summit we have accomplished a decisive step towards NATO membership. I am also convinced that our negotiations on accession to the European Union will continue successfully after a brief standstill.
Croatia is fully aware of its responsibilities – in the region, in Europe and in the world, and it will know how to justify the confidence it enjoys.
Let me propose a toast to you, Mr. President, and to Mrs. Bush, to your good health and personal happiness, to the progress of the friendly United States and, finally, to a world of peace, mutual understanding and trust to which, I am convinced, we all aspire.