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Security through Democratisation

Article by Tonino Picula, Croatian Foreign Minister

September 15, 2006

“Security through Democratisation: Croatia’s Experience.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to be here with you. The topic I would like to discuss is the position of the Republic of Croatia in relation to what we today understand as security, and how this has reflected the overall democratisation process. I wouldn’t like this to be a speech, but rather a dialogue so I will make it brief and give you more time to ask questions.

What do democratisation and security have in common? The answer is simple – without democratisation, we cannot have security. And without basic security, it is very hard for a country in transition to proceed with its democratisation processes.

Democratisation is placed right at the centre of a new security paradigm, as the security, both internal and external, is the fundamental prerequisite for the development of open, free market societies based on the rule of law- the kind of society Croatia has opted for.

Croatia understands that its security is not an individual country. It entails a whole range of issues and factors. Understanding that without a secure environment, we are not secure either, is one of them.

For much of the 1990s, Croatia has been a subject of numerous international conflict resolution initiatives, hosting a great number of representatives and missions of various international intergovernmental, as well as non-governmental organisations. The UN, the ECMM, the OSCE, Human Rights Watch, and many others. The Transitional UN Administration in Eastern Slavonia – the UNTAES, has remained in Croatia until January of 1998.

Croatia has thus been, for much of the past decade, one of the ‘security takers’. Today, such Croatia no longer exists. Croatia is now one of the active ‘security makers’. What do I mean by that?

I will give you some of the examples of Croatia’s contribution in this respect.

Democratic changes in Croatia, ushered after the parliamentary elections in January last year, have influenced the democratic changes in other parts of the region of South East Europe. Today, Croatia is a stable, modern democracy, a partner-state, fully aware of its international responsibilities and commitments. Croatia is internationally recognised as a regional stability factor that contributes to the security of its neighbours. We do that through partnership and joint activities with other ‘security providers’, such as NATO, the EU, the UN, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and other relevant international actors. In this partnership, what brings us together are, above all, the norms and values, that we share in the realisation of our common goals. Democratisation of South East Europe is one of such goals. Croatia has been very active in advocating further democratisation of its neighbours, emphasising this to be a key factor in establishing closer neighbourly relations. We believe that last week’s extradition of Miloševiæ, the master mind of the tragedies that happened in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo in the 1990s, is an extremely important contribution and a significant step forward in creating a more democratic environment in South East Europe.

As for the regional co-operation, Croatia equally promotes good neighbourly relations with countries of all of the three regions that it belongs to; Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and South East of Europe. What links Croatia to its neighbours is a lot of shared interests and awareness that it is only possible to realise them through co-operation. Sharing the same values and interests is an extremely valuable point in this process, as it has a direct influence on its dynamics. Apart from strengthening the bilateral relations, we are also active in many multilateral regional fora; Croatia participates in around twenty regional initiatives and programmes, designed to promote basically the same goals; peace and stability, and good neighbourly relations, as well as the integration into the European and Euroatlantic mainstream. However, there are too many regional initiatives already, and we feel their further proliferation would not be helpful. We believe there is already an ‘overlap’ and duplication of efforts in the existing ones. This calls for a better co-ordination and streamlining, rather than proliferation, if we wish to achieve better results.

The new Croatian government has strenuously worked and successfully carried out comprehensive reforms that have brought it closer to its main strategic goals; the EU and NATO. Although terms ‘European’ and ‘Euroatlantic integration’ tend to assume mythic features, in Croatia’s case it is not anything like cherishing a myth or illusion centred around a sudden rise of the standard of living. It is more an issue of European identity.

Integration into EU and NATO is motivated by a strong desire to become an active part of the coalition of the countries that have a political will and ability to defend and promote the fundamental values advocated by those institutions. And the basic rights of every citizen.

The process of democratisation in Croatia is taking place on two levels: 1) ‘from above’ through the basic democratic orientation and specific politicies of its government and 2) ‘from bellow’, through the active engagement of the Croatian society – our media is engaged, our NGOs, our academia, as well as other segments of the society. Our co-operation is primarily based on a constructive dialogue. Sometimes we share views and sometimes we have different opinions – but we talk and exchange ideas, and this dialogue is the driving force behind our co-operation in building a fully democratic society. Such ‘two-way approach’ proved to be, indeed, a road to success.

The democratisation process requires great personal commitment, hard work and financial sacrifices. Here I must stress a great will and determination of every single citizen of Croatia that is being invested in this process.

Our stability and successful reforms have been recognised by the EU, that calls Croatia, quote-unquote, “a stable democracy, on its way to integrate into the European structures”. Overall progress is especially to be seen in the domain of human rights. The American NGO ‘Freedom House’ has in its last report, for the first time ever, given Croatia a status of “a completely free country”. In addition to that, I must specially emphasise the decision made by the Council of Europe to end the human rights monitoring mission in Croatia. Croatia is also no longer included in the ‘Omnibus’ UN Resolution on the Situation on Human Rights.

In May last year, Croatia has joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme and in May this year we have initialled the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU that we will most probably sign during the Belgian presidency.

We understand that integration is a process, requiring a certain period of time. Meeting all of the criteria is a difficult job. But the results we have achieved so far give us enough of optimism and pose an impetus to move further. In this process, we have managed to achieve standards chosen to behave as we are already one of the members. We can say that Croatia’s success in transforming from a security taker to security maker, in only few years, has already become a sort of a paradox of South East Europe.

· From having the UN peacemakers on its territory, only few years ago, Croatia’ s peacekeepers are now actively contributing to security elsewhere. Our military representatives are participating in the UN peace support missions in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea, as military observers.

· From being one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, Croatia’s mine experts are now engaged in demining activities world-wide. Their experience and expertise that they have developed in the demining activities in our country, are very much appreciated.

· From having our non-governmental organisations trained by international experts, Croatian NGOs are now engaged in training NGOs in other countries in transition.

· From having the UNCIVPOL police forces in Eastern Slavonia only few years back, our policemen are now engaged in the OMIK Mission in Kosovo, where they have been teaching at the Kosovo Multiethnic Police Academy.

· In Albania, we have also seconded our legal expert to the OSCE Mission.

· Croatia shares concerns of international community regarding the present situation in Macedonia. We are supporting the efforts of the EU and NATO and stand ready to provide our contribution.

One of the main problems of Europe today is a proliferation of ‘soft security’ threats, such as the illegal migrations, drugs and arms trafficking, as well as other forms of the organised crime. As much as our geographic location makes our position most favourable in terms of communications and transport links, our territory, with its long borders along the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as our coast line, is a target of those security threats, too.

However, there is a positive side to this. Croatian geographic position, connecting the three regions of Europe, makes it an indispensable factor in the European security. Our results in combating and stopping soft security threats testify about our commitment and efficiency in this respect. In fact, we can say that we have become a ‘front-line’ state towards Western Europe. How did we achieve this? Primarily, due to our institutional capacity.

Here, I must certainly emphasise Croatian border control, which is, apart from the sea border that is controlled jointly by the police and the military, exclusively controlled by the police. To substantiate this claim, allow me to quote the findings of the Budapest Group evaluation mission; “Croatian border control systems and relevant legislation meet western European standards.” By defending its own borders, Croatia defends borders of others, too, and its role in this field is regarded as most valuable.

The key word in combating soft security threats is co-operation. I will give you an example of how Croatia can be assisted in further strengthening of its institutional capacity – through co-operation, based on an extremely important element: the transfer of knowledge. Last month in Zagreb, there was a meeting of the Third Working Table on Security Issues of the Stability Pact, that Croatia was co-chairing. As we all work on same goals and to avoid any duplications, the aim of our co-chairmanship was to establish a greater link and closer co-operation between the countries in the region and other participants. Notably NATO in defence and security issues, and the EU and the Council of Europe in the domain of Justice and Home Affairs. I think we have managed to find a formula, based on joining our potential, especially knowledge and expertise; the establishment of a ‘trilateral border co-operation’, among countries of south east Europe, the EU candidate countries and one or more of the EU countries, was confirmed. The greater level of co-operation with NATO was also established in the field of the natural disaster preparedness activities. Next year’s fire-fighting exercise is to be held in Croatia, titled ‘Taming the Dragon 2000”, as a part of the PfP activities.

The Zagreb meeting has confirmed what Croatia has been advocating for some time now – a ‘functional integration’. As today’s security threats are in its nature trans-border, they have to be confronted with means other than bureaucratic ones. Working on common goals requires a common involvement and co-operation. Let me give you an example. I believe that the Stockholm Meeting on Illegal Migrations between the EU countries and the EU candidates held in March this year, excluding other countries of South East Europe, should have been just the opposite. Illegal migrations pose a problem that no one is imune to. As this problem effects countries from Ukrain to Slovenia, it should have included all the countries directly threatened by it.

South and East of our borders, there is still work to be done in terms of achieving sustainable stability. We are ready to continue with our constructive approach to meet this goal, in co-operation with the international community. Although Croatia cannot be a crucial element in this process, we are ready to contribute in whatever may be our share, such as to try and assist positive developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, we feel our greatest contribution to the region’s stability is to continue with our reforms and build a stable and prosperous Croatia.

Security and democratisation are inter-linked. For whatever reasons people feel insecure, from being exposed to any external aggression or internal threat, it is difficult to promote and ‘move further’ with democratisation processes. The region of South East Europe is a good example of this, because the countries were engaged in a parallel process of building its own institutional capacities, as well as meeting the basic security requirements. As such process is, I’m sure you agree, very difficult, we can say that our achievement and results are, in this respect, indeed, significant.

I hope I have managed to briefly present the position of the Republic of Croatia in relation to what we today understand as security, in relation to the democratisation processes. How a country can both change its face and its security potential, when basic security requirements are met and when the entire society supports and participates in democratisation processes.

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