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Relations Between Croatia and the United States

Relations Between Croatia and the United States

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Interview with Damir Hainski, HINA Croatian News Agency
Washington, DC
October 13, 2006

HINA: Mr. Fried, the visit of Prime Minister [Ivo] Sanader is a huge event for us. I'd like to ask you about evaluation of the present relations between Croatia and the United States. We can see a huge improvement after we settled the problem with the ICTY. We had the visit of Vice President Cheney in Dubrovnik in May. We had contacts and meetings at the UN General Assembly last month. And now the Prime Minister is coming. So are our relations better?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Well, you have said it, and you have said it accurately. Relations in fact have never been better. The arrest of Gotovina removed the last obstacle which was sort of the symbolic dead weight of the past, and there are, as I see it, no obstacles, no roadblocks, to Croatia's future as a member of the Euro-Atlantic community and its institutions. Croatia's fate is now in Croatia's hands.

We look at Croatia as a friend. We look at Croatia as a European country and a contributor to stability in the Balkans. We'll talk about this in a minute. And I appreciate what Prime Minister Sanader has done in Croatia and to move his country and his party toward the future.

I very much have enjoyed my meetings with the Foreign Minister. I respect her very much. She's a strong advocate of Croatia's future membership in NATO. She's strong and she's effective. We appreciate Croatia's support in Afghanistan, in ISAF. Troop levels have gone up and we know that Croatia's considering what it can do.

This is important because Croatia, like other European countries, and like the United States, needs to be outward-looking. The problems in the world – we cannot wall ourselves in, we cannot shut them out. We either ignore problems and then they grow, or we try to solve problems and reach out to help people. Croatia is doing that in Afghanistan, where we are clearly helping the people there against the Taliban. Croatia's contribution is greatly appreciated.

Croatia is interested in NATO membership. NATO membership is not simply a gift; it's an alliance in which the members take care of each other and they help each other and do things together in the world. Croatian membership in NATO would obviously mean something important for Croatia because your security would no longer be simply supported by your own strength; it would be supported by the strength of your allies. But membership is not simply a gift. Membership requires responsibility.

Croatia is already contributing to the alliance's operations in Afghanistan so clearly you understand that. I hope that more of Croatian society comes to support NATO membership because we're not the Warsaw Pact. We don't want members of NATO unless they want to be members of NATO.

Let me say something also about the region, about Balkan stability. The great unresolved question is the future status of Kosovo. The great problem is how we can bring Serbia into the mainstream of Europe, where it belongs, where it should be.

Kosovo's final status will not be easy, and all the countries of the region and the countries of Europe need to work together so that this happens in a way that brings greater stability, greater democracy, greater progress for all the countries involved. Croatia can help, obviously, talking to Serbia, helping Bosnia strengthen its defensive statehood. You don't want instability on your borders. You've had quite enough of that, I'm sure. And, of course, reaching out to Serbia.

So there's a rich agenda. We are delighted the Prime Minister is coming. We respect his leadership, and we're looking forward to it.

You asked a broad question, I gave you a pretty broad answer.

HINA: Yes, thank you. Regarding development in the region, is a free trade agreement in the Balkans a possibility? Is it going to be one of the topics of the talks next week?

Assistant Secretary Fried: We will want to hear your Prime Minister's views about this and about what makes sense. We look to the WTO to open the world's trading system. We look to the process of EU membership, and I think although there's a debate in the European Union there's also an understanding that the Balkans should join with Europe.

I noticed that my German counterpart, Michael Schaefer, recently said in a pres conference in Pristina that all the countries of the Balkans should find a future home inside the European Union. He didn't say when, but clearly this is an important statement by a very serious and very senior experienced official, and that's very good news.

HINA: Regarding investment, the United States invested $4 billion over the last 15 years in the region. Now we have a huge investment of Barr Pharmaceuticals. Would you expect more investment in the future?

Assistant Secretary Fried: That's great. Investment brings jobs, it brings technology, and it integrates countries far more effectively than government assistance programs. Those are permanent. Investment is permanent. One successful investment brings more. If Croatia becomes known as a good place to do business, the business will come. And it's [Barr Pharmaceuticals] a huge investment. We are delighted. It's the single largest U.S. direct foreign investment in the region. It's great news. We're very happy.

HINA: One more question about cooperation between the United States and Croatia in the war on terror, especially regarding the traffic of heroin from Afghanistan through the Balkans. Are there any plans to enhance border security cooperation with technical support from the United States?

Assistant Secretary Fried: We are working together as best we can on these issues, and you're on one of the drug routes into Europe. It's not your fault. It's a problem, and we're working together. It's important to keep up our cooperation in this area.

HINA: There is an announcement today that the Secretary of State may travel to Korea next week. Is that –

Assistant Secretary Fried: I've heard that rumor.

HINA: But the meeting with Prime Minister Sanader is still on schedule for Monday?

Assistant Secretary Fried: As far as I know, it certainly is.

HINA: Thank you. Could we expect more high-level visits from the United States?

Assistant Secretary Fried: The Vice President was there earlier this year. I was in Croatia also, in fact I've been there – I was there in July. I've been there a couple of times recently, and very glad to have been there.

HINA: Two weeks ago the White House lifted restrictions on military cooperation regarding Article 98, opening the door to IMET military education exchanges.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Very good news. We want to work together, and our military cooperation is important. Of course Croatia is already helping in Afghanistan so it's completely logical that we would do this. And we're moving ahead in a good direction.

HINA: But this agreement is still on the table. It's not so –

Assistant Secretary Fried: We'd like –

HINA: It's not in the middle of the table, but it's still on the table.

Assistant Secretary Fried: We'd like to conclude the Article 98 agreement. This is important. I remember Prime Minister Sanader during the election campaign said he would do this. So it is important. It's a good thing to do.

HINA: Thanks a lot.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Very good. My pleasure.


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