Your Excellency Apostolic Nuncio,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me extend to you my heartfelt greetings at the beginning of the new year, at yet another of our annual encounters. Of course, we do meet on various occasions and for various motives throughout the year but this meeting at the start of 2002 is a good opportunity, both for me and for you to draw a kind of a balance of the road covered so far, and to try to indicate our goals in the year that has must begun.
Many of you were here, in this hall, one year ago as well. But for quite a few this is the first time. Those among you who were with us last year will perhaps remember that I appealed very clearly to the support of the world, of the countries which you represent, to the new Croatian government and its policy.
Today I can only repeat that appeal but I can also paraphrase or freely interpret a well-known twentieth-century American President: I shall not ask what you can do for Croatia; I will tell you what Croatia is doing and has to do itself and for its own sake.
As you are aware we are today a member of the Partnership for Peace, and we expect inclusion in the Membership Action Plan for future members of the NATO. We are a member of the World Trade Organization. We have signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, and we are at the beginning of the complex and vast job of adjusting our legislation to European standards.
Croatia has committed itself to Europe democracy, civil society and the rule of law. This commitment has not been forced upon us; it reflects our awareness that united Europe is not only our wish but also our destiny, because it is only within united Europe that we shall achieve the Croatia we want and the Croatia we are building.
We note with satisfaction that we shall enter united Europe measured in terns of our own success, at the rate we have earned ourselves with our own achievements.
We are not concerned by the fact that Europe will also evaluate us, among other things, by our readiness to develop regional cooperation. because such cooperation certainly serves Croatia's interests as well.
We are prepared not only for fully normal but also for advanced relations with each neighboring country. We are prepared to deal with each existing problem - and we are aware of their existence - by peaceful means and by negotiation, appreciating the interests of the other party while not neglecting our own interests - with the message that the policy of blackmail and threat has never paid off over a long term.
We are aware of the need to meet the internationally assumed commitments. We will meet all of them and will not agree to comply with them selectively to anyone's liking - whether here or abroad.
We are determined to shake off the embrace of the past, and in particular of its bad parts. The past can teach us how to avoid repeating the mistakes already made once, but it cannot and may not be a model for building the future.
We shall assume and meet the commitments entrusted us by the antiterrorist coalition, deeply aware of the danger of global terrorism. Let me take this opportunity in order to reiterate that terrorism has no ethnic or religion background, and that the clash of global terrorism with the rest of the world is simply a clash between civilization and non-civilization.
On the domestic scene, we know that our priority task is the recovery of our economy. However much we can be and are pleased with the visible improvement of Croatia's international position, we are not and cannot be pleased with thc rate of our economic recovery. To a not insignificant extent, we are also responsible for such a state of affairs because we are too inert and too bureaucratized in providing opportunities for foreign capital prepared to come to Croatia.
We do not want to be the hostage of the region but we also know that we cannot escape from it and that the normalization of conditions in our part of the world also serves our own interests. In this context we shall continue to provide our own contribution to the defusing and full normalization of conditions in Southeast Europe with our policy towards neighboring states as well as with our participation in specific regional initiatives.
We shall promote initiatives focused on strengthening democracy and the civil society, and we must display more political will and resolve in neutralizing the opposition to our European policy. To put it quite candidly, this opposition, not really too concealed, sometimes originates even from the institutions of the system, but also from circles in which the anti-European spirit should not dwell.
With the foregoing I have indicated what we are doing, what we are going to do and what we should be doing.
Of course, I hope that the world, the countries which you represent, will recognize our commitment and support us in our efforts. In thc coming year, I wish you would continue to faithfully transmit everything that is taking place in Croatia and thereby help us to gain ever greater international support - almost needless to say to mutual benefit and in the interest of peace and democracy in the; region, Europe and the world.