President Bush Supports NATO Membership for Croatia by 2008
Washington – President Bush met with Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader at the White House October 17 and said that during the upcoming NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, he would push for Croatia’s admission to the alliance by 2008.
Bush said he believes “it's in the world's interest that Croatia join NATO, as well as the European Union. To that end, when I go to Riga, I will make the case that Croatia should be admitted. It seems like a reasonable date would be 2008.”
NATO membership is expected to be a topic of discussion at the Riga summit November 28-29, and alliance leaders may signal what conditions should be met for the candidate countries to be offered membership as early as 2008. Croatia, Albania and Macedonia formally have requested membership.
Bush thanked Croatia for supporting “a young democracy” in Afghanistan and said he and Sanader also discussed “investment opportunities in Croatia. We talked about the need to enhance trade and commerce.”
“I consider the prime minister a friend; I consider Croatia a friend, as well,” Bush said.
Sanader said that “about the only question we disagreed [on] was whether Croatia or the United States had the most beautiful coastline.” Bush said he would love to come, having heard that Croatia is “one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth.”
The prime minister also said the two discussed the ongoing negotiations over the final status of Kosovo as well as other regional issues. (See related article.)
“Croatia is not forgetting that we are in the region where we still need a strong U.S. and European cooperation,” Sanader said. “We believe strongly in trans-Atlantic partnership. There is no alternative to this.”
Sanader met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the previous day. The two discussed “Croatia’s future as a member of the Euro-Atlantic community as well as its aspirations to join the EU and NATO,” said State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey during the daily press briefing October 17.
“They did pledge to continue to work together on a variety of issues related to peace and security in South and Central Europe,” Casey added.
Sanader also was scheduled to meet with Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
In advance of Sanader’s visit, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told the Croatian News Agency (HINA) October 13 that relations between the United States and Croatia “have never been better.” He said he sees “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.”
Fried also said membership in NATO “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.” (See related article and transcript.)
He said Vice President Cheney traveled to Croatia in May, where he met with the leaders of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia – the Adriatic Charter nations -- in Dubrovnik and had dinner with Sanader. (See related article.)
The Adriatic Charter is a pact signed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia on May 2, 2003. It affirms the commitment of the three southeast European countries to the values and principles of NATO, as well as continuing U.S. support for their full integration into the European and Atlantic community.
A transcript of the remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Sanader is available on the White House Web site.