December 9, 2009
Full transcript from a NATO Forum public event with Croatia's Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Gordan Jandrokovic.

Speakers:


  • Damon Wilson, Vice President and Director, International Security Program, Atlantic Council
  • Robert Gelbard, Atlantic Council Board member; Chairman, Washington Global Partners; former U.S. Special Envoy to the Balkans
  • Gordan Jandrokovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia

Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.

December 9, 2009


DAMON WILSON:  Good morning, everyone – Mr. Minister, our Excellencies.  My name is Damon Wilson, and I’m the vice president and director of the international security program here at the Atlantic Council.  I want to welcome you and thank you for joining us this morning at the council on behalf of Fred Kempe, our CEO, as well as Fran Burwell, our vice president for trans-Atlantic relations, and Ambassador Gelbard, who will be hosting our program this morning as our council director.

We’re delighted to have the minister from Croatia joining us this morning.  He’s already been hard at work with meetings at the Pentagon this morning at half past seven.  So he’s already well in stream.  And we’re delighted to have you join us today at the council’s part of what we call our NATO Forum.  

And part of the discussion today is about – is about Euro-Atlantic integration of southeastern Europe and implications for international security.  And while this storyline is broader than NATO, broader than the NATO alliance, obviously, the European Union has a tremendous role to play in this regard.

We wanted to host the minister as part of the NATO Forum discussion here in Washington to underscore the importance of not ignoring the process of completing the picture of Europe whole and free that includes southeast Europe, particularly is the process of the NATO strategic concept unfolds.

The forum serves as the Euro-Atlantic community’s premiere venue for discussion, debate, analysis on issues relating to NATO, its future and Euro-Atlantic integration.  The forum features major public speeches from senior statesmen, roundtable strategy sessions with decision-makers and leading analysis from experts and practitioners from across the Atlantic on matters relating to the alliance.

Sen. Richard Lugar and NATO Sec.-Gen. Anders Fogh Rasmussen inaugurated the forum in September, 2009, with major policy speeches on the future of the alliance and NATO’s development of a new strategic concept.  National Security Advisor Jim Jones, Atlantic Council Chairman Chuck Hagel and our International Advisory Board chairman, Brent Scowcroft, have also participated in the forum.

That’s why we’re delighted to have you join as a European voice as part of this ongoing debate and ongoing dialogue.  But to get our program started this morning, I’d like to introduce Ambassador Bob Gelbard, who will introduce the minister and help moderate our discussion.  Ambassador Bob Gelbard is a close friend of the council.  He’s an Atlantic Council board director.  He’s also the chairman and cofounder of Washington Global Partners.  He brings to the council a wealth of previous government experience – over 35 years of government experience as a diplomat in the U.S. Department of State.  

Before retiring, he held numerous senior policy positions, including ambassador to Indonesia and Bolivia and most relevant for today’s discussion, he was President Clinton’s special envoy to the Balkans during a difficult period with intimate knowledge of the region and the trajectory in which we all want to see the region move in the future.  He also served as assistant secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement of Affairs, where he managed U.S. counterterrorism policy.  

He earned a B.A. from Colby College and an M.P.A. in economics at Harvard University.  He’s been a close friend of the council while he served on the board, helping to provide thought leadership on many of our initiatives including most recently, our cyber-security work.  And with that, let me turn the floor over to Ambassador Gelbard to introduce the minister and to get our program started.  Thank you.

BOB GELBARD:  Good morning, everybody.  It is an enormous pleasure to welcome Minister Gordan Jandrokovic to the Atlantic Council this morning.  Croatia is a country that I know well and have followed since its independence.  It went through a very difficult birth.  I first visited Croatia 14 years ago this month, in fact, and I was deeply disturbed when I saw the destruction that had taken place throughout Croatia, particularly in the East, in Eastern Slavonia, which I visited.

And looking back over these 14 years, it is truly impressive to see the kind of progress which has occurred.  Croatia has gone through a dramatic transformation, a dramatic transformation.  One of the things I was really struck by during my first visits to the country were that the goals, the hopes, the expectations, the aspirations were really quite clear.

It was made crystal clear to me at that time, even then, in 1995, 1996, that Croatia planned and expected to become a full member of the critical Euro-Atlantic institutions, particularly NATO and the EU.  So here we are in 2009 and they have met one of those expectations fully and are well on the way to meeting the other.

They are a leader in the region in the western Balkans in southeast Europe and they have become a major leader throughout the world in peacekeeping operations, including most notably, providing approximately, I believe, 300 troops to Afghanistan and are participating in what I understand are approximately 14 or so peacekeeping operations around the world.

The economy, too, has gone through an important transformation from the statist orientation that it had before to a solid free market one now. And as I travel throughout the western Balkans and throughout other parts of Europe, what I hear is – are statements of admiration for how a country which was really wracked with violence and conflict as a result of the wars which were taking place during the ’90s has now emerged in a  very, very important way to become a leader.

One of the great examples of the second generation, what I call “Croatia 2.0” of leadership in this country is Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic.  He represents a new generation, new thinking and stands out as a kind of model whom we see throughout the region.  I also do not want to neglect our wonderful ambassador, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, his predecessor as foreign minister, who is another important example of that kind of leadership whom we see in Croatia and throughout the Western Balkans as they bring this region from a period – a long period of – I’m not going to call it communism.  I call it “communism-lite” to democracy, market-oriented economy and really into the mainstream of what we see in Europe and in the trans-Atlantic community today.

I asked the minister, when we were meeting before, it he had a twin brother after reading his biography.  He clearly has done so much in his 42 years on this planet, that I was convinced that there had to be two of them.  He’s pursued dual careers, as you may have seen, a combination of business and diplomacy, excelled in both and is really an outstanding example of why we have, between the United States and Croatia, a tremendous partnership and why we have solid expectations that Croatia is going to continue on this outstanding trajectory in the future and play a very important role in NATO and then in the EU.  Mr. Minister.

GORDAN JANDROKOVIC:  Good morning.  First of all, I would like to thank Ambassador Gelbard for his kind words.  I’m not sure that you mention, you spoke about me, pleasing for my wife at the time, so good.  (Chuckles.)  Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, it is a great pleasure and honor for me to be here today and to able to engage in a discussion about matters of significance to all of us, matters of international security and stability.

At the time when the international community and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are engaged in discussion about President Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan as well as our responsibilities going forward in the very crucial mission.  I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to you also about another part of the world, southeastern Europe.

Not all that long ago, southeast Europe was also the focus of NATO’s attention.  It is no longer the front page news story it once was, but it still requires our attention if it is to keep moving toward an end goal of lasting security, stability and prosperity.  And enhancing security, stability and prosperity in southeast Europe is a responsibility that Croatia shares with our NATO allies and other partners in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations.

Europe and the United States have mobilized considerable resources to support stability in this region and to support a prosperous, secure and democratic future of southeast Europe.  However, it remains our joint responsibility to complete this process and to make full use of the potential that the trans-Atlantic partnership offers, a partnership which embodies a lot of roles for both NATO and the European Union.

When President Truman signed the North Atlantic Treaty on behalf of the USA, he expressed the goal of its founders in typical, simple and straightforward language, to preserve their present peaceful situation and to protect it in the future.  The NATO today is an alliance able to face new challenges and threats while at the same time, fostering partnership in its efforts to achieve lasting peace and stability.

It is an alliance pursuing a dream and partnership with the EU, of a Europe whole, free and at peace, a dream that has almost been achieved thanks to the enlargement policies of both NATO and the EU.  And by keeping the dream alive, by keeping the prospect of the membership in the EU and NATO open to all of the countries of southeast Europe, the successes achieved in the Western and Central Europe can be repeated in southeast Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my firm belief that 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the time has come to lift the curtain on southeast Europe, to bring it into the European mainstream.  Croatia’s firsthand experience has shown us, we know that in the process of ensuring the prosperous, secure and democratic future inside the Euro-Atlantic community can sometimes be long and painful.

Crucial steps are required and unexpected hurdles often pop up along the way.  But I’m proud to say that Croatia has taken those steps and for the most part, cleared those hurdles.  As a result, in April of this year, we succeeded in achieving one of our most important strategic foreign policy goals, membership in NATO.

Equally important, we have entered the home stretch on our way to the EU with determination to complete our membership negotiations by mid-2010.  And we are committed to fulfilling all necessary forms and meeting all criteria, especially those related to judiciary reforms, reform of public administration, the fight against corruption and cooperation with Hague’s tribunal.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the early days of our membership in the alliance, we feel privileged to be taking part in the inclusive and transparent process of drafting NATO’s new strategic concept as well as contributing to the discussions and decisions about the most important challenges we face.

Over the last 18 years, Croatia has undergone an incredible transformation, not only in terms of political and economic reforms, but most notably, in its position from security recipient to nation that is now a peace and security provider, a nation that contributes to 15 missions around the globe as ambassador mentioned.

However, it is the NATO-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan that is at the core of Croatia’s international peacekeeping engagement.  Here and today, I want to emphasize once again that Croatia fully supports President Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan.  Croatia is committed to strengthening its presence in Afghanistan, which consists of 300 soldiers and is seeking way to further contribute to NATO’s key efforts.

Building Afghan capabilities is the best way to ensure ownership and lead the role of Afghan institutions in security matters.  That is why we attach great importance to it.  And that is why we intended to participate with two additional police mentoring teams in addition to already operating three – (inaudible).

With regard to the comprehensive three-branch approach of additional military engagement, combined with greater responsibility for the Afghan government and then effective partnership with Pakistan to be the right way forward.  Croatia completely shares the view that the desired outcome of our joint mission is to have Afghanistan and Pakistan free of al-Qaida and for the government in Kabul to assume responsibility for an ownership of Afghanistan’s future.

For Croatia, Afghanistan continues to be a long-term commitment.  We take our NATO obligations very seriously and we will continue to do our part, just as we did before joining the alliance.  Equally important, we are committed to continuing our efforts in the development of Afghan civil society, particularly through projects aimed at the government’s capacity building and human rights.

To this end, we have trained Afghan diplomats at our diplomatic academy in Zagreb.  We have hosted a state visit by Afghan woman officials to familiarize them with Croatia’s initiatives in the areas of human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment.  We have even been teaching female farmers the art of beekeeping as a small step towards agricultural diversification and a step back from opium production.

This humanitarian initiative may seem small when compared to what other nations with greater economic means are doing.  But given our own experience, we recognize that even the smallest of gestures can make a difference.  Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, the scenario for the future depends on us.  

We can let it happen.  We can make it happen.  Or at the end of the day, we can wonder what happened.  Croatia, in its capacity as a NATO member and an EU member-to-be is already on board in Afghanistan.  We have also taken the steering wheel of changing our region with the intention of driving forward at full speed until reaching our strategic objective of a secure and prosperous neighborhood in southeast Europe.

And we will spare no effort in accomplishing this ambitious task that we have set for ourselves.  In that respect, we will do everything possible to further assist our friends from Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo in their pursuit of Euro-Atlantic integration.

All of these countries have undergone tremendous changes in political, economic and social terms.  They have reached different states in their integration path and they continue to move forward, although not always at the expected speeds or desired dynamics.  Today, all of them except of Kosovo have signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement in European Union.

Macedonia is nearing the moment of opening accession negotiations.  Montenegro and Albania have applied for membership and Serbia is about to follow.  As far as NATO’s enlargement is concerned, we look forward to Macedonia becoming a member as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue with Greece has been found.

Croatia also strongly supports Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina in their NATO aspirations.  And we were strong proponent of their invitation to MAP.  And while Montenegro was invited to MAP, last week at the NATO ministers meeting, we regret that Bosnia Herzegovina was not invited.

Why do we think it is important for Bosnia-Herzegovina to get a MAP invitation soon?  The first reason is that Bosnia-Herzegovina’s MAP application has been supported by all three ethnic groups and relevant political parties.  If we wait too long, that support may falter, particularly given general elections next year.

Furthermore, joining MAP may actually help the Butmir process, as various sectors in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be encouraged to formulate a unified position on key political issues.  Finally, MAP provides the alliance with a strong mechanism to encourage and influence the reform process.

In short, we are of the firm opinion that granting MAP will help the stability of Bosnia-Herzegovina and thus, the stability of the whole region.  We believe that NATO’s door should remain open for Serbia too if and when it decides to move closer to the alliance.  All we know, Croatia has a very strong view about the need for southeast Europe to remain high on the alliance agenda.

The open-door policy is, without any doubt, without any doubt, one of the most successful policies of the alliance and as such, should also be reflected in the new strategic concept of NATO.  But southeast Europe still faces serious challenges.  There are some crucial, important political questions that need to be addressed, especially regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.  When it comes to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia is a co-signatory of the Dayton Agreement is deeply concerned with the current situation.

Unfortunately, Bosnia-Herzegovina is already lagging behind compared to other countries in the region and we need to keep it on the right track.  This, of course, is first and foremost the responsibility of political leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  They need to demonstrate the resoluteness necessary to arrive at the compromises.

However, in order to get there, Bosnia and Herzegovina further requires the attention of the international community, including the Office of the High Representative.  In our view, the key to a more stable democratic and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina lies in the equal position of both constituent peoples at all levels of government and especially in the decision-making process.

This is of vital interest for Croats in Bosnia Herzegovina, especially since they are the smallest in number and as such, the most vulnerable of the three constituent peoples.  Croatia will continue to advocate this position.  At the same time, we will continue to strongly support all reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina at ensuring a more functional state with a clear perspective of NATO and EU membership.

We highly appreciate the engagement of the current EU presidency and the United States in facilitating an agreement on the necessary constitutional changes.  And we firmly believe that this process must be continued.  Also, in political – also of political importance in the region is the need to intensify our efforts in supporting the Republic of Kosovo.

A year-and-a-half since its independence, Kosovo has come a long way.  Nevertheless, major challenges still remain, one of them being that Kosovo is still not participating at important regional meetings.  Kosovo’s appearance and contribution at these meetings is of crucial importance for stability, security and further development of the region.

At this moment, the focus of attention is turned to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  Together with United States, Croatia is among the countries participating in the oral proceedings before the court, strongly arguing in favor of the legitimacy of Kosovo’s independence.  Our knowledge and experience in the constitutional organization of the former Yugoslavia gives this specific role in this process.

Ladies and gentlemen, another important issue for southeast Europe at the moment is achieving sustainable economic growth and development.  That is why regional cooperation will remain of key importance.  Croatia is and will be a strong proponent of all regional initiatives, especially the Regional Cooperation Council and the CEFTA agreement.  

Those are, in our view, the best incentives for a sound economic development of the region as well as its smooth integration into European networks and markets.  The benefits stemming from regional market integration are well known and there is no alternative to free trade and open markets.

This will contribute to sustainable national economies while increasing their ability to cope more efficiently with the consequences of the current economic crisis.  Finally, efforts are being made to solve open bilateral issues in the region.  Croatia will continue to stress the need to solve those issues in the spirit of partnership and good neighborly relations based on international law.

Because regardless of their nature, no open issue should be used to prevent the progress of any country of the region on the path to membership in the European Union and NATO.  And finally, few months in Sarajevo, Vice President Biden rightly pointed out that letting go of the past and embracing the future is a daily struggle and much effort still needs to be invested not to fall back on old patterns and animosities.

Trans-Atlantic partners assumed joint responsibility for putting southeast Europe on its path to peace, stability and security.  They extended their hand to our region when we needed it most and we grasp it.  Today, we continue to seize the opportunity of transforming southeast Europe into an undivided, democratic and stable area in which all countries can be given a chance to prosper.  This is what Croatia is committed to.  This is what we are striving for in our neighborhood and this is the future that we hope awaits the good people of Afghanistan as well.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR. GELBARD:  Well, thank you, Mr. Minister, for that very impressive, not-surprisingly impressive survey of Croatia’s role in the globe, particularly in terms of the role in terms of international security and the region.  I’d like to start the questions of, if I may, by asking you a question about Bosnia, as I told you I would.

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Yes, no problem.  

MR. GELBARD:  You talked a lot about the role that you see – or what you see as important in terms of what needs to be done on a broad basis in terms of Bosnia right now – the three constituent peoples, the need to move them into MAP, which I gather the United States did not support.  

Could you be a bit more specific in terms of the political process and what you think really needs to be accomplished in order to get both sides – both the federation and Republika Srpska – to try to come closer together in terms of an accommodation, and also in terms of the often-discussed need for constitutional reform?  

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Thanks for this question, but if I can answer you, then I will probably get Nobel Prize for peace.  (Laughter.)  But really, Bosnia-Herzegovina is now in the center of our concern.  This is our neighboring country and we have 1,000-kilometer border with Bosnia-Herzegovina.  

We also have Croat community in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Croatia also signed the Dayton Agreement and we have a duty and moral obligation to follow the situation there and to help all three constituent people – all people who life in Bosnia-Herzegovina – to follow other countries from the region to one day also become a member of the European Union and NATO.  

We have four principles in our policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina.  First, it is support for territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It is very important to stress because of recent history – because of position of other neighbors – it is always important to mention, to reiterate that every neighboring country supports territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The second element of our policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina is necessity that all three constituent people should be equal – should have the same rights – but not only on the papers, on the documents, but also in practice on the ground.  In theory, they have the same rights, but on the ground it’s very hard to say such a conclusion, especially when you analyze the position of Croats, who are the smallest constituent people there.  

Before the war, it was 900,000 Croats; now, it’s less than 500,000.  It’s almost double less than before the war.  And they share, together with Bosniaks, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  In Republika Srpska’s situation, it’s unfortunately clear that it serves the majority.  They have a very stable position inside this entity.  And they send very ambiguous messages about the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  

The leader of Bosnian Serbs, Dodik, very often mention that Bosnia-Herzegovina is not his country, that he is leader of Republika Srpska, who has a right to, maybe, one day become independent state.  And this message is not good.  This message shouldn’t be the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  At the same time, in Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croats are dominated by Bosniaks, who are majority in Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is not good.  

And new changes in constitution should take into consideration, also, this fact.  How to combine functioning states and equality of three constituent peoples – from my point of view, from our point of view, this is the major task.  How to provide mechanism to protect equality of all three constituent peoples and have functioning institutions.  

And this third element is functioning institutions.  Now, Bosnia-Herzegovina, unfortunately, is not functioning state.  They have five or six levels of power.  And it’s very hard, first, to define and then to make it real, some projects.  We know from our bilateral relations, but probably international community which is involved very strongly in Bosnia and Herzegovina understands what I mention now.

And fourth element in our policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina is Euro-Atlantic perspective.  And this is now the crucial issue where we have different views on MAP.  We believe that MAP cannot be carrot for Bosnian politicians.  We believe that they should get this MAP, this carrot, maybe before they deserve it.  Why?  From our point of view, this is the best leverage to deal with reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to influence these reforms.

If they get this first step – this is not a membership; this is just first step.  If they will get this first step in this phase, before election campaigns, we believe it’s possible to influence the processes there.  And it is, from our point of view, better than wait that they really deserve, according to our rules and procedures, MAP.  

MR. GELBARD:  I’d like to turn to the audience.  Any questions?  Good.  Damon, yes.  Please identify yourselves when you’re asking questions.

MR. WILSON:  Damon Wilson here at the council.  I just wanted to kick off the questions by, first of all, thanking you for the clear vision of a Southeast Europe very much integrated into the European mainstream.  You presented a strong, clear vision of the way forward for the region.  And you’ve talked a little bit about Bosnia and how it can fit into that vision.  We’ve touched on Montenegro and its recently gaining a membership action plan.  

I wanted to draw you out a little bit more on Serbia, if I may.  It’s impossible to complete the vision that you articulated this morning without Serbia being a full participant in that vision.  And over the long term, this will require some degree of Serbia in the region, normalization of Kosovo’s place in the region.  

How do you see the debate developing within Serbia as it looks towards Brussels?  How do things like Montenegro – a country that was also part – that also had bombs from NATO land on its territory during the NATO bombing campaign in ’99 – how does its movement towards the alliance and its gaining of a membership action plan potentially impact the debate within Belgrade?  How do you see Serbia moving forward on its agenda with the European Union?  

And what about its relationship with NATO?  It wasn’t uncommon, several years ago, to hear President Tadic talk about the future of Serbia finding a place closer to and eventually in the alliance.  That type of discussion, that type of rhetoric has not occurred since Kosovo’s independence.  So if you could give us a sense of how you see this debate developing within Serbia and how you see the vision that you articulated coming into reality in the not-so-distant future, but with Serbia as a full participant?  

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Thank you for your questions?  It’s not one; it is a few questions.  Firstly, I would like to reiterate that we support all our neighbors in their Euro-Atlantic paths and their Euro-Atlantic ambitions.  But they are on the different level and they have different ambitions towards the Euro-Atlantic integrations.  

First, Serbia.  Serbia declared that they want to be a member of the European Union, which is good, which is positive for all of us.  At the same time, they are not keen to join NATO.  And the public support for NATO in Serbia is less than 10 percent.  I was very surprised when I heard this information, but it’s definitely true.  And because of that, they probably must combine this approach towards European Union, towards NATO.  But don’t forget, very important orientation of Serbia towards Russia, towards China.  

And their last paper which they produced about foreign policy, about priorities of Serbia, they defined four main pillars in their foreign policy.  It is Brussels, Washington, Moscow and Beijing.  It was, of course, a surprise for all of us, but we must take into consideration such an approach.  This approach is different than approach of any other country in the region.  We must know that we have country in the center of the region who doesn’t share with us same foreign affairs priorities.  In the case of the European Union, they are very close, but in the case of NATO, there is different.  

What can we do?  We can and we will continue with our efforts to develop as-good-as-possible relations – bilateral relations – with Serbia.  We would like to help Serbia in all regional initiatives, but together with Kosovo.  If we recognize Kosovo now, we must have Kosovo around the table.  For Serbia, it is not acceptable.  And the main challenge now is how to overcome this problem, how to have Serbia and Kosovo at the same table.  I’m not sure they must recognize Kosovo in this phase, but they must find a mechanism how to cooperate with Kosovo in this phase.

This government in Serbia, it is my opinion, they tried to make something, but at the same time, they explain to me, we are hostage of internal situation.  We cannot go further without public support.  And we shall see.  It’s not easy to say what will happen, really.  But from our point of view, we will continue to develop good bilateral relations with Serbia.  They are very angry because we are now in The Hague and explain our position towards Kosovo.  But I believe we will overcome, as lots of times in history we overcame our problems.

But after that, we shall continue work with Serbia.  Concerning Montenegro, it is much easier situation for Croatia.  We have excellent relations with Montenegro.  We cooperate economically, militarily, politically.  It is really a good case – Montenegro is a very positive example in Southeastern Europe.  And especially important is our economic cooperation.  For example, a few months ago or a few weeks ago, they start to build highway from the coast to Serbian border.  It is more than 100 kilometers – very complex, very difficult highways.

And Croatian consortium got this job.  It is more than 3 billion euros.  It is the biggest job for Croatian companies abroad ever.  And at the opening ceremony, prime ministers of Croatia, of Montenegro and Serbia delivered the speeches and it was excellent, positive example how we can work together.  Border between Serbia and Montenegro, coast of Montenegrin sea and Croatian companies who work and it is a good example.  Montenegro was host of this event and they were very proud and we believe it’s very positive step.  

MR. GELBARD:  Let me just interject and ask you to follow on, do you see – in terms of Serbia and NATO – do you see any contradiction between the increasingly intense cooperation between the United States and Serbia on military issues versus their pushing away the possibility of closer relationships with NATO?

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  It’s very hard to say what exactly is the opinion of Serbs concerning – Serbian people concerning military cooperation with Serbia (sic), membership in NATO, relations towards Russia.  I’m not an expert.  And it’s very hard to give precise answer to this question.  But it is positive, for us, that Serbia cooperates with you, also, on a military basis.  Whether they can get more support for NATO, I don’t know.  Maybe in the future.  

If they will see concrete results in this military cooperation, if they will learn something from the history of their relations with other countries, I don’t know.  But we would like to see Serbia on the same path as other countries from the region – to share with us the same values and to share with us the same interests and goals in their foreign policy.

Q:  Zvonko Labas, National Federation of Croatian Americans.  Understanding what you were saying, we actually have three major partners for Southeastern Europe – U.N., NATO, and now, Russia.  How much is of interest to Russia considering the southern gas pipelines options to have a strong Southeastern Europe, all in NATO and European Union, versus Russian interests and the possibility of competition for their gas?

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  You mean, how it is possible to combine NATO membership, EU membership with cooperation with Russia in energetic sector?  

Q:  That’s right because there’s the two options.  There’s the southern route, which is the Russian gas and there’s the Nabokov route, which is not Russian gas.  

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Yes.  I can say that Russia is very efficient when you analyze their behavior towards Southeastern Europe in energetic sector.  They bought a lot of companies there, some transport possibilities.  And they’re very active to be present and to be leader in energetic sector in Southeastern Europe.  I would like to see, also, the answer from second side – from Western companies, from Western countries.  But so far, it is very hard to define what is the real plan of some other companies when you compare with the strategy of Russia.  

Q:  So the competition is good for Europe?

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Yes, I agree with you.

Q:  So the Russians would not have a monopoly.

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  I agree with you, but nowadays, we can see strong influence and strong presence of Russia in energetic sector in Southeastern Europe – not only southeastern, but also Central Europe.  They are very active in this field.  

MR. GELBARD:  Questions?

Q:  I’m Mindaugas Abaliksta Lithuanian Embassy.  I would like to stress on Afghanistan, if I may –

MR. GELBARD:  Could you speak a little louder please?  

Q:  I’m Mindaugas Abaliksta from Lithuanian Embassy.  May I have a question concerning Afghanistan, already, or it’s going to be later on?  Yes, it was mentioned that you are going to send two more teams towards Afghanistan.  May you explain a little bit more about this initiative?

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Mm-hmm.  Croatia has 300 troops, now, in Afghanistan.  And the last decision of Croatian parliament is that these 300 troops stay in Afghanistan.  But we – at the same time, we want to support, also, the initiative of the American President Obama, and we would like to strengthen our presence there.  But so far, we don’t want to increase the number of soldiers.  We would like to, firstly, restructure our mission and we would like to focus on the issues which is the most important for Afghanistan.  

From our point of view, this is the training of their security forces and also training of their police.  Because of that, we will send, very soon, two teams for training and mentoring their police forces.  Also, we have some discussion with our partners and allies about common, joint presence in some areas of Afghanistan.  But now, we just discuss it and negotiate.  We shall see what happens.  But what I want to reiterate strong support for President Obama’s proposal and Croatia’s commitment to be there and to strengthen our commitment there.  

MR. GELBARD:  Thank you.  

Q:  Thank you very much.  Mr. Minister, my name is John Sandrock.  I now work with Analytic Services Incorporated, which is a – I won’t describe that.  But my previous history is, I spent a considerable amount of time with the OSCE in Vienna.  I was one of the senior officials.  I was instrumental in building up the OSCE mission in Croatia, starting in ’97, and followed it very closely until I left the OSCE in 2001.  

Most of the questions that have been asked of Bosnia relate to ones that I was also interested in, but one of the concerns that we had, of course, in the days of the OSCE mission was the return of Serb refugees and displaced persons to their homes.  I wonder if you could give me an assessment as to how this is progress progressing and whether or not this is, in fact, an area where there could be some room for a greater relationship or better relationship between the Serbs and Croatia?  

And more or less tied to that is, all of the region has become a traffic route for drugs, crime, trafficking of women and all kinds of issues and I wonder if you could address the kind of international cooperation, either through the OSCE or independently, to address some of those issues?  Thank you.

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Mm-hmm.  I will start with your second questions, because we really reach an excellent level of cooperation among countries in Southeastern Europe.  I mentioned Serbia and politically, we are not so successful as we are successful in such cooperation.  Our ministry of interior, ministry of justice – they cooperate excellently in the field which you mentioned, and we also have cooperation with other countries from the region because we are aware of these problems and we know that we can solve it only together – not one-by-one, but only jointly and together.

Concerning your first question, refugee return is very high on the agenda of our government.  And we want to finish this process until the end of next year.  Our plan was to finish this process until the end of this year, but because of financial problems – problems in our budget because of economic crisis – we must prolong it for 1 year.  In Croatia, return of refugees and their property is not a political issue; it is now a technical issue.  And we cooperate excellently with representatives of Serbian party, which is also part of ruling coalition.  

We have support of all minority representatives in our parliament.  We have eight representatives of minorities in Croatian parliament.  Three of them are Serbs.  And vice president, or vice prime minister in our government, is representative of Serbian minority.  He’s in charge of human rights.  And we cooperate with them and we have coalition agreement between my party, HDZ, and Serbian party about dynamics and manner, how to solve and how to deal with this issue.

We are aware that we must solve it.  This is part of our reconciliation process.  This is also an example for other countries in the region.  And we would like to see, also, other countries to behave like Croatia in this case.  

MR. GELBARD:  Are you finding that because of the greater relative prosperity in Croatia, compared to Serbia and Bosnia, that there is more interest in the Croatian Serbs returning?  

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Yes, it’s possible this is one of the reasons.  But also, political messages – if we have a coalition with party of Serbian minority, if they get position of vice prime minister for human rights, this is also the sign for Serbs that they are welcome.  And it’s a pity that we have, now, financial problems and economic crisis also in our area, because without this crisis, we will probably finish this process until the end of this year.  

We are now oriented towards future.  This is the heritage – negative heritage from the war.  But we are aware we must finish that, finalize that and, together with Serbian minority and other minorities in Croatia, look at the future and our ambition for membership in European Union.  Thank you.

MR. GELBARD:  In the back.

Q:  Nadia McConnell, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.  Mr. Minister, I was interested – well, many of your comments, but the one about MAP should not be used as a carrot – is this a view that might gain some momentum?  Because it seems to me that MAP has now gained sort of the status of, almost meaning membership.  It’s not viewed as a process and therefore, it becomes such a big obstacle.  I mean, MAP could take years and years.  Do you think your view might gain some momentum?

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Next year, it is elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina – in October next year.  And I’m not sure how will political leaders and national leaders will react about MAP during the campaign.  Maybe some of them will find attractive to attack MAP and NATO.  I’m not sure.  Now, we have consensus among political leaders of all three constituent peoples that MAP is positive for Bosnia-Herzegovina.  It is interesting that also, Serbian politicians from Serbia support MAP for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is unique state.  And 1995, international community took responsibility for what will happen in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  This is not same example as others.  And because of that, the same principles, the same approach towards Bosnia is not possible, it is our belief.  We need something specific.  I heard my colleagues from other member states of NATO – they said we have strict rules; we have strict procedure.  If somebody does not deserve MAP, then it is impossible to get it.  

But I try to explain, this is not the same country as other country is; we have international presence there from 1995.  And especially in the last few years, we didn’t reach any success.  After Dayton, we have five, six, 7 years – positive trends.  Now, again, we have negative trends.  In the last few years, we must know that things in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not better; they are worse than before.  And because of that, we must be inventive.  

And maybe MAP is not miracle and it cannot change everything, but maybe this approach to give something to Bosnia-Herzegovina and then influence the processes, it is better than now, we must wait again for reaction of national leaders.  Some of them will say, oh, it’s a pity that we didn’t get MAP, but they will not change their behavior.  If you have instruments that you can force them to change behavior – because of that, we believe it’s better to have it in than waiting for some time.  

MR. GELBARD:  Did you want to follow up?  

Q:  Mr. Minister, you also talked about Russia being very efficient in the energy sector.  I guess it could be argued that a dictatorship is always more efficient than democracy.  But in this field, I mean, Russian government can decide where it’s going to invest in energy, whereas in the West, those are commercial decisions made by individual companies.  

So it seems we just go round and round.  And if energy is a security issue for Europe and the West, how do we deal with this paradox of where investment in the energy sector is going to go and who makes that decision?  

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  It is right question, but I don’t have the answer.  (Laughter.)  It’s really difficult, and I fully share your concern and understanding and the philosophy of your question, but I really don’t have any answer.

MR. GELBARD:  Mr. Minister, thank you very, very much.  We greatly appreciate your coming to the Atlantic Council in the midst of your very busy schedule here in Washington.  We’re delighted you’re here in Washington.

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Thanks a lot.

MR. GELBARD:  It’s yet – as I said earlier in my remarks – another manifestation of the way Croatia has assumed a greater role on the international stage over these last 15 years, how your country has emerged from civil war, from destruction, into a modern, liberal democracy.  And we are convinced that Croatia is going to continue to play a greater and greater, important role in international affairs.

MR. JANDROKOVIC:  Thank you, Ambassador.  Thank you very much for your hospitality.  I would like to thank, also, the organizer.  And I’m very satisfied; thank you very much for your attention and your questions.  And I’m ready to come again when I next time visit Washington.

MR. GELBARD:  You’d be welcome.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

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