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Cablegate: Nato Syg Says All the Right Things in Zagreb

VZCZCXRO1922
RR RUEHAST
DE RUEHVB #0821 1880953
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070953Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6377
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000821

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MARR NATO HR DEFENSE REFORM
SUBJECT: NATO SYG SAYS ALL THE RIGHT THINGS IN ZAGREB

1. SUMMARY AND COMMENT: NATO SYG Hoop de Scheffer, in
Zagreb for six hours July 6, met President Mesic and PM
Sanader, and reassured the press about NATO's readiness for
Croatian membership "as soon as Croatia is ready." The
SYG's visit reinforced the GOC's efforts to educate its
public about the responsibilities and privileges of NATO
membership. Even President Mesic, known for referring in
the past to the NATO "Pact", struck a positive note (and was
careful to use the word "Alliance") in publicly identifying
NATO membership as strongly in Croatia's national interest.
END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

2. After meeting President Mesic in Zagreb July 6, NATO
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the press that

SIPDIS
invitations for NATO membership will not be distributed at a
summit in Riga at the end of November, but he expects that
Croatia will be given a strong and encouraging signal in
Riga. President Mesic told reporters that he and the SYG
had discussed Croatia's aspirations to join Euro-Atlantic
associations as soon as possible. Stressing that the issue
of NATO membership was not currently of great interest to
the Croatian public, Mesic said this was because "when one
speaks of Euro-Atlantic integration, this is almost always
interpreted as joining the EU". He added, "Joining NATO is
in the interest of our security, the protection of certain
values, and the most favorable solution for Croatia is to
realize both objectives." Mesic also noted the Croatian
public needs to be informed of the benefits of joining both
NATO and the EU. De Hoop Scheffer stressed that this was a
government responsibility, to inform the public of the
benefits of NATO membership, adding that the alliance would
help in that. He also said Croatia must continue
implementing reforms and fight corruption. He commended the
great progress made to date in Croatia's effort to join Euro-
Atlantic associations and called for this to continue.
3. Following his meeting with PM Ivo Sanader, de Hoop
Scheffer also underscored Croatia's great progress on the
path to NATO membership, and asserted that it can hope to
receive positive signals at the Riga summit. He added there
was still work that needed to be done, primarily in the
strengthening of Croatia's public support regarding the
country's ambitions to enter NATO and the continuation of
reforms and fight against corruption. PM Sanader told the
press, "For us, NATO represents a community that is
committed to the same values as the EU. That is a community
of countries that Croatia wants to join and must join." PM
Sanader noted that he had informed Scheffer of efforts
Croatia was making to advance cooperation in the region,
notably through the transformation of CEFTA and its
presidency of the SEECP, as well as the country's
participation in NATO's trust fund for the reintegration of
defense personnel in Bosnia-Herzegovina into civil society.
The PM also noted that a conference on security issues will
be held at the beginning of next week in Dubrovnik. The
NATO Secretary General said the alliance highly appreciated
Croatia's leading role in the region, stressing that Croatia
also gave its contribution to safety and security by
participating the International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) Mission in Afghanistan.
4. Commenting on a reporter's question, de Hoop Scheffer
said it was entirely untrue that NATO could ask new
candidate countries to increase the number of soldiers in
NATO missions in return for membership. Asked to comment on
information that there would be no NATO enlargement in 2008
either, Scheffer said he also had read that, adding that one
should not believe such reports. The Croatian PM told
reporters that the reason for lower public support for
Croatia's membership in NATO was the fact that the alliance
was equated with the intervention in Iraq. It is primarily
the duty of the government, as well as of all political
leaders in the country to explain to the public that this is
not the case and to inform them of the importance of NATO
membership, Sanader said. He expressed conviction Croatia
would achieve this goal, stressing that a positive signal
from Riga was necessary.
Bradtke

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