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Sec Albright Interview on Croatian Television

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Zagreb, Croatia)

For immediate release February 18, 2000

Interview of Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright by Croatian Television February 18, 2000 Zagreb, Croatia

QUESTION: (English translation) Good evening respected viewers, you are watching a special and shorter edition of "Otvoreno." As you know, an unspecific number of foreign delegations attended the final inaugural ceremony of the second Croatian President Stjepan Mesic. One of the most significant guests certainly was the American Secretary of State, Mrs. Madeleine Albright. She has accepted to give a short interview to Croatian Television tonight, and we would like to thank her. Good evening, Mrs. Albright. You have had numerous meetings today and I would really like to thank you for this short interview.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Dobro vecer ("Good evening" in Croatian).

QUESTION: Dobro vecer. (English translation) Mrs. Albright, before I start with the political questions, I would like to ask you something. I don't know whether you were told in America that your brooch was one of the themes in the Presidential campaign. The Presidential candidates, after their meeting with you, even interpreted them as political messages. What's your brooch tonight?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, today I have on the tree of life. I think it's a good sign of wonderful things happening in Croatia in what is really now a new country. So, a tree of life today.

QUESTION: (English translation) Mrs. Albright, this is your second visit to Croatia since January 3. It certainly represents a strong message not only to the Croatian public, but to the Croatian politics as well. We can say that a new era of U.S.-Croatian relations is opening up. What are your expectations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I would really like to congratulate the Croatian people for having elected this new government that shows so much hope and it really reflects the desire of the Croatian people to be part of democracy and all the economic developments, and so I hope very much that this new government is going to be able to fulfill the expectations of the people by having a very strong economic program, by really working very hard to integrate themselves into Western European institutions.

QUESTION: (English translation) After January 3, Croatia has become, so to speak, become the world's pet, especially in Brussels and Washington. However, I would say that this has happened almost blindly. Therefore, what are your expectations about the first moves of the Croatian Government in order to move Croatia toward a new foreign policy direction?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think what is necessary here, for the first steps, have to do a lot with the economy and trying to make sure that the people get a reward for what they have done and worked so hard for, and that the values go to the people and not just to the leadership as had happened previously. And I think that what is important is for a variety of steps to be taken in order to strengthen the investment climate so that other countries will be very happy to come and invest in Croatia. And then also get ready for Partnership for Peace because that is not a gift, it is an obligation, there are things that have to be done. And ultimately for membership in the E.U. So, there are a series of foresteps that have to be taken.

The other part that I think is very important that we are looking towards, it is very important for Croatia to live up to various parts of the Dayton Accords, and for cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal, I think that is something that the world is going to be looking at, because that is a sign of real progress. And then, to try to make sure that the Serb refugees are able to come back. It's important for Croatia to treat minorities in a respected and proper way. So, those are the kinds of things that we'll be looking at.

QUESTION: (English translation) During the transition period, Croatia will certainly need more than just political assistance from the world, especially from America. The Croatian public certainly expects some very concrete moves in the financial plan as well. Do you maybe have some information for our viewers, in which sense can America financially help the improvement of the current difficult economic situation in Croatia? Ambassador Montgomery has sent a message to the Croatian people that there will be no Marshall Plan, but maybe we can expect something after all?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm sure that you want more than just me coming to visit every once in a while, but what we have said, and I said it when I was here before, is there will be an increase in seed funding in FY2000, from $12 to $20 million. We have been requesting an additional $37 million dollars in our supplemental process. We are going to be opening offices here in Zagreb of TDA and OPIC offices, and we think that there will be an OPIC investment mission early in the summer. Also, I think that there will be help in terms of reconstruction of housing for returning refugees. We know that we have to do our part, but the important part here is for the Croatian people and the government to really seize the opportunity. We will be there to help and so will other Western European countries.

QUESTION: (English translation) Clearly, one of the priorities of the U.S. policy is the stability of Southeast Europe. What will be the effect of democratic changes in Croatia for the stability in the region, particularly for Bosnia and Herzegovina?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We hope, and I expect that there will be a huge impact. Croatia, the fact that Croatia was able to have a group of opposition parties that were able to work together, have successful parliamentary elections and then have a presidential elections is a very important sign to the entire region, especially now to Serbia where the opposition needs to learn how to work together and understand that if you work together there is a reward at the end. You get the kind of government that the people want, rather than one that is imposed on them.

Also, all of Western Europe and the United States are putting a lot of work into the Stability Pact for the whole Balkans and I think that Croatia can now take a very active part in that in terms of a leadership role of trying to help to get stability throughout the Balkans. You say that Croatia is now the pet of everybody, I think that everybody feels such a sense of hope about Croatia and the possibilities here. We all recognize how much work this is going to take, we want to help. But the signals coming out of Croatia can emanate very far. I think I should have worn a sun pin.

QUESTION: (English translation) There are doubts and fears not only in the Croatian but in the wider political public as well, that the world will take Croatia into the Euro-Atlantic integrations as part of a package, waiting for other countries from the Balkans. Now a possibility of an individual access is being mentioned, that Croatia could be a good example, but that it will have its own path in this. Could you comment on this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that in all the cases, whatever institutions they are, one of the real way that this has happened has been individually. I think that each time there are certain criteria, responsibilities that come with any one of the European institutions and I believe, and I believe this should be so, is that countries should be considered individually on their merits and therefore, that is why it is so important for Croatia now to undertake various responsibilities that come. I think that sometimes there has been a tendency to have people think that membership in these organizations is a gift, a reward, and, to a great extent it is a sign of different level of maturity of the countries . But, frankly, it is a sense of responsibilities these countries have, all of them, and there's a membership action plan, and steps that need to be taken, that will show that a country is ready to be a part of European institutions.

So, I hope that the people of Croatia understand, that what they have done is a huge step forward and they deserve to be recognized, but there are various steps that have to be taken and once they have been, they will be considered individually, not as a group.

QUESTION: (English translation) Is there a difference today between the U.S. and the EU approaches toward Croatia?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the different approach will be is to really see very carefully what has happened and understand correctly, that Croatia lost ten years in terms of the respect that I think people were expecting initially when Yugoslavia broke up. I think there was a lot of hope, and then I think there was a sense of depression about the direction in which Croatia was going. And now it is, as I said, like having a fresh start, and I am so glad to be here for the inauguration of President Mesic, because I think it's very important.

QUESTION: (English translation) They tell me that we are nearing the end of our conversation, you have many commitments, many diplomatic meetings today. This year must have been very difficult for you, with many diplomatic activities, and you must certainly be thinking about a vacation. Have you maybe taken into consideration Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful towns in the world?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I tell you, if I ever get a vacation, I would like very much to spend it in Dubrovnik. We have to figure out how to get some time off, but I tell you, it is exactly days like today where I am able to participate in the inauguration of a brand new democratic president that makes me realize that is a greater pleasure than any vacation. So, I can wait on vacations, I'd much prefer to come to events like this and meet democratic leaders.

MS. NOVAK-SRZIC: (English translation) Mrs. Albright, thank you very much and I hope we'll have another opportunity for a maybe even longer interview for Croatian Television. I wish you a pleasant stay in Zagreb, more free time, and, of course, that the U.S. and Croatia take the path you have talked about. (###)

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