On the begining of the meeting President Mesić held following introduction:
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you here in the Office of the President of the Republic. I am delighted to have the opportunity to meet a group of journalists of your profile. I simply must say this at the beginning of my brief introductory remarks since – believe me – I rarely have the opportunity to have contact with journalists and reporters who are both professional and serious and on top of that have a thorough knowledge of the matter they write or speak about.
However, this is certainly another topic and you have not come here to listen to my lamentations over seriousness or lack of seriousness of most of today's media. May I first give a brief outline of the situation in the region – how I see it and of course from Croatian perspective – and then I shall be glad to answer any question you may have. As you are aware my ten year Presidential term is at its end. Globally speaking, the region today is not what it was a decade ago and I believe, immodestly, that this has to some extent been the result of my efforts.
At the same time, however, I must say that positive processes that commenced after the year 2000 have been slowed down and in certain areas and at certain points even called into question. We bear witness to return to the language and policy that we used to know in the early 1990s and this is not good and I must say this quite frankly. Why am I saying this?
I will outline an answer to this. The relations between Croatia and Serbia have been in a stalemate ever since we recognised Kosovo. I have already become weary of repeating that the Article 1 of the Constitution of Yugoslavia from 1974 stipulates that the Federation consists of six republics and two provinces; the Constitution also stipulates that citizens in the provinces enforce their sovereign rights and that provinces are – thus – constitutive elements of Yugoslavia. Consequently, they had, just as the republics too, the right to self-determination.
When Serbia omitted to restore Kosovo's autonomy after the fall of Milošević, when it had no capacity to re-establish its rule there and no capacity to reach a solution through negotiations since the formula: more than autonomy - less than independence, did not have any meaning, it was necessary to define the status of Kosovo. And this was how independence came about.
We have recognised this new reality and the same has been done in the meantime by more than 60 countries. Still, Belgrade cannot find a way to become reconciled to it and now – as I understand – holds it against us because we shall take part in a hearing before the International Court of Justice on whether the recognition of the independence of Kosovo was founded. Would it not be highly hypocritical to recognise Kosovo and then not dare to publicly say why?
However, this is simply how things are. The situation in the whole region will be ridden by such a stand as long as Belgrade still turns historical myths into real policy and up to the moment when Belgrade will understand that it does not need to recognise Kosovo but it will have to – no matter when exactly – for the sake of interests of the Serbs living in Kosovo – reach some kind of modus vivendi with the newly established state.
And then another problem arises. The discontent of Belgrade with the recognition of Kosovo starts now, admittedly indirectly, to reflect on the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina – through the policy pursued by the leadership of the Republika Srpska. Due to this, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is today the main source of concern over the situation in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. If the Dayton Accords stopped the war and did not – now it is evident they did not – provide a basis that would enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to function as a state in peace time, then something needs to be done urgently.
For, things are threatening to get out of control. There I see a major role and also responsibility of international community, in the first place of the European Union. What needs to be done? If there is no other way out, then a new conference like that one in Dayton needs to be convened and foundations of Bosnia and Herzegovina in peace time need to be laid. Naturally, under strict observance of the rights and equality of the three constitutive peoples and all their members – in every moment and on each fraction of Bosnia and Herzegovina's soil.
We have been helping Croats in the neighbouring state but we have sent to them a clear message that Bosnia and Herzegovina is their homeland, that Sarajevo is their capital and that they need to make their policy there and not in Zagreb. It would be good if a message of that content was received by the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina from Belgrade but – unfortunately – there are no such messages.
Thus, the most urgent task is to stop erosion of stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and help this country to get back on its own feet. Viewed from our perspective, Montenegro is getting along well and our relations with it are exceptionally good in spite of painful experience in the recent wars. However, the Montenegrin side has shown its readiness to face up to the past and to admit what was not good and to turn a new page. We have welcomed it and accepted it.
Our relations with the Republic of Macedonia are good and we are sincerely sorry that the name dispute spoils not only its relations with Greece but also turns out to be an obstacle on its path towards its membership in NATO. We can only hope that a way out of it will be found in the interest of both countries but also the whole region, again with the assistance from the side – I mean by this American mediation.
And another word or two on our relations with Slovenia. Due to a dispute that is soluble, of course provided that it be not used for enforcing some unrealistic maximalist demands, we have lost a year in the accession negotiations with the European Union. We are now, at least I hope so, on the path towards the solution and I would not like to add anything more to it. I hoped that we would join the Union sometime towards the end of my term but I will have to reconcile myself to the fact that this will happen later.
The main point, however, is that we join the European Union but there is something else too. It is essential that all the countries of the region, depending on their individual progress, join the Union! I underline: all of them! Finally – on Croatia. We have laid foundation for a true democracy and rule of law. We have depoliticised and reformed our armed forces. We are working on the reform of the police force, judiciary and public administration. I am not saying that we do not encounter difficulties in this, even resistance, but we make progress. As for the cooperation with the ICTY we have to make efforts to make it perfectly clear that this cooperation is sincere, without reservations and existing at all levels. Without this there will be no progress and we need it desperately!
We are also facing aggressive appearances of historical revisionists who are finding their role models in the darkest chapter of the recent Croatian history and we have to get to grips with it vigorously. I shall not give up my efforts even after the end of the Presidential term for if we lose this battle, we have lost a battle for democratic and European Croatia.
I hope that I have provided sufficient material for your questions. Thank you for coming.