Honourable Speaker of the Croatian Parliament,
Honourable Prime Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Officials of the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities of the Republic of Croatia,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Recalling the significance of 25 June 1991 when the Croatian Parliament adopted the Declaration on the Proclamation of the Sovereign and Independent Republic of Croatia may I first of all express gratitude to all who took part in the reconstruction of the independent Croatian state, in its defence and liberation, as well as to all who have advocated the establishment and promotion of democracy and have given their contribution to the development of modern Croatia in any other way.
This year's celebration is taking place in the year when we have accomplished one of our two strategic foreign policy goals: admission to full-fledged membership of NATO.
This is a confirmation of our years-long endeavours to develop a democratic society and give our contribution to regional and global peace and security. This has been recognised by NATO allies and a large number of countries of the world, which has also got reflected on our election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
We can proudly state that the Republic of Croatia is a unique example of a world country that very quickly transformed from a country receiver of international assistance, during its exposure to aggression, to a country that has become an important subject of international relations both on the European and global level.
Being able to co-decide on issues of international peace and security today as a member of the Security Council, Croatia shows its commitment to these values also through the participation of its soldiers and police officers in 18 peace missions throughout the world.
However, on this occasion I have to state with regret that there has been a standstill in our negotiations on membership in the European Union, our other strategic foreign policy goal.
The cause of it is in the first place Slovenia's blockade of certain negotiating chapters. It is necessary to reiterate that the Republic of Croatia wishes to resolve the contentious border issue with the Republic of Slovenia in the European and good neighbourly spirit and on the basis of international law. However, this is no longer just an interstate issue, but rather one of the European Union.
Certainly, Croatia will continue to give constructive contribution to the resolution of this problem, however it will not consent to any territorial concessions for membership.
One also needs to say that we have to continue to remove existing obstacles in the negotiating process. The reform of the judiciary and fight against corruption remain in that sense priority tasks and a condition for catching up with lost time in opening and closing of negotiating chapters during recent months.
Since its proclamation of independence, Croatia has made great strides in the democratisation of its society, first of all in spreading a democratic dialogue based on arguments among different social components. I have personally specially advocated the development of democratic institutions, the rule of law and protection of human and minority rights.
On the other hand, some issues that we considered to be done and over with have shifted to the focus of attention in a way that is not appropriate to a democratic society. Thereby, I mean a return to the Second World War period in a way that calls anti-fascism into question. This is simply pointless since historical facts cannot be changed and our belonging to the anti-fascist tradition is a historical and constitutional foundation of the modern Croatian state.
While respecting all the positive state and political heritage of the Croatian people this is the reason why I placed, am placing now and will place in the future special emphasis on anti-fascism. I am confident that a future Croatian President too should promote the anti-fascist tradition along these lines, reflecting our lasting commitment to freedom and resistance to any occupation.
Let me say a few words on economic development. Last year on this same occasion I announced and warned of the threat of a global crisis, whose thundering could be heard as early as then. Today, the crisis is being felt everywhere, including in this country.
High indebtedness, a drop in industrial output and national product, increase in domestic non-liquidity, threatened jobs – all of this is our reality as well.
The causes of the crisis are complex – moral, political and economic. What is sought now is a quick and well thought-out response from all of us, first of all the government which directs economic policy.
Therein, we have unfortunately lost some time, wasting energy on some less important issues.
What is crucial now is first of all to socially protect Croatian citizens and ensure the vitality of all social functions, in particular health care, education, police and judiciary as well as local and regional government and self-government.
Furthermore, during the last local elections we have for the first time implemented the direct elections for mayors and county prefects. I am confident that this is a step forward in terms of democratic development, in particular in the development of democratic procedure and institutions, which are and should be in the service of all our citizens.
The Republic of Croatia has in its brief history as a modern state, and the Croatian people in its long history, been in seemingly hopeless situations, facing difficulties much more complex than those of today.
In spite of unfavourable circumstances, we have survived and managed to obtain our freedom and independence through struggle. This is the reason why we should not view our current difficulties just as problems, but also as opportunities for development and opening of new prospects.
Addressing you on this festive occasion for the last time as President of the Republic, I would like to stress that I look upon the future with optimism, confident that Croatia will develop successfully as a modern democratic state, equal in the community of the states of Europe and the world. We are all obliged to give our contribution to this goal.
I would like to congratulate all of you the Statehood Day of the Republic of Croatia!