H.E. Mr. Tonino Picula
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia

57th Session of the General Assembly
New York, 17 September 2002

Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, allow me to sincerely congratulate you, Mr. Jan Kavan, on your election to the distinguished position of President of the General Assembly. I am confident that under your able leadership the work of the Assembly will be conducted in a most productive manner. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank the outgoing President H.E. Mr. Han Seung Soo for the successful completion of the work of the 56 session of the General Assembly. I would also like to use this opportunity to warmly congratulate Switzerland on becoming the full member of the UN family and to welcome the return of the USA to UNESCO.

Mr. President,

Following the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11 last year, a new vigour and resolve has emerged to make our world a safer place for all, not only in promises, but in deeds.

General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, especially 1373, serve as a common platform for combating terrorism. However, their letter and spirit must be fully and thoroughly implemented in order to rid ourselves of global terrorist threats. In our endeavours the United Nations is proving to be the best framework and unique pillar for the international community's joint actions in maintaining international peace and security, as well as in providing legitimacy to these actions.

The prompt and almost universal response of member states to the requests by the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee is a telling example of how efficient the United Nations can be in mobilising the international community in facing common challenges. It is our hope that member states will respond with the same responsibility on another important dimension of eradicating terrorism - namely, to finalise current negotiations on the comprehensive convention on combating international terrorism.

Furthermore, Croatia believes that efforts should be intensified in order to resolve regional conflicts that pose fertile ground for recruiting terrorists. The cycle of violence in the Middle East must end. Parties to the conflict must return to the negotiating table and make the vision of two peoples living in peace within their secure and recognised state borders, happen.

We also call for Iraq's full compliance with its international obligations regarding the possession and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The violations of Security Council resolutions must not be tolerated and we welcome the announcement of the President Bush to work with the UN Security Council in this regard.

We must also recognise that Afghanistan is today on a difficult but hopeful road to recovery, with the assistance of the international community.

Mr. President,

We fully support the Secretary General in his efforts to move the United Nations from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. We consider that the timely dispatch of well structured peace-keeping operations, with a clear and effective mandate, can prevent the recurrence of conflicts and create a platform for re-building peace and shattered societies. It is exactly here that new tasks and challenges lie before contemporary peacekeeping operations, which we have witnessed born in East Timor and Kosovo. In this regard, we welcome the new approach of the Security Council in having regular meetings with. troop-contributing countries. As a contributor, with military observers in peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and recently in Kashmir, Croatia has found this exchange of information and experience most fruitful and useful for all.

This brings me to the subject of Security Council reform, which, as all of us agree, is necessary to address the new political environment of the 21st century. Unfortunately, we still have not achieved sufficient political consensus for significant progress in this respect. The lack of progress is certainly discouraging for many. Nevertheless, we must reform the Council in order to be able to adequately address the security threats we are facing today.

Mr. President,

As we revisit the historic promises made by our world leaders embraced in the Millennium Declaration, we must now embark on a process of improving the UN as an instrument of global co-operation for the benefit of all humankind. In this regard, we commend the Secretary-General for his report on the integrated and co-ordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, as a necessary prerequisite to implementing the goals set in the Millennium Declaration. To this end, full and constant co-operation of Member States and the Secretariat is essential.

The Economic and Social Council has continued the path of strengthening its role within the UN system. A number of innovative precedents have been set this year related to the improvement of co-operation and co-ordination between the main bodies of the UN; between the ECOSOC and the IMF and World Bank; and its co-operation with the NGOs and private sector. The resolution on the ad hoc advisory group on African countries emerging from conflict, has been adopted in order to help these countries in peace-building processes. Guinea-Bissau has already submitted an official request for the establishment 'of such an ad hoc advisory group for its country. Croatia is pleased that it can- through the person of the President of ECOSOC- contribute to the revival and strengthening of this highly important body.

The United Nations should continue to keep the development agenda at the forefront of all areas of the UN's substantive agenda. Among all of the multilateral organisations, the UN is the only one with the institutional capability to address and manage the challenges of globalisation. Croatian delegation hopes that the outcome and follow-ups of Monterrey and Johannesburg will keep our commitment on track, in particular with regard to mobilising additional financial resources. We must work together to improve the lives of people in poverty and to reverse the continuing degradation of the global environment. A true global mobilisation of all relevant stakeholders will be necessary to ensure the outcomes of these conferences are transformed into reality.

We note the broader acceptance of UN's norms by Member States, that will ultimately lead to the "globalisation of human rights" and a universally recognised international code of human rights. As Governments, we must provide the environment for their universal acceptance and their full implementation. Croatia is contributing to this goal through its membership in the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Mr. President,

Global contribution comprises of individual achievements. In order to contribute to global peace, security and development, each country has to be stable, secure and function on well founded economic system. My government is doing exactly that. In October last year, Croatia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. For the last two years we have introduced a set of reforms aimed at bringing Croatian society closer to the European Union and NATO. The commitment of the Croatian Government in this respect was recognized by the European Commission. In its first report on the stabilization and association process, issued in spring this year, Croatia was singled out as the most advanced country in the process.

Another important element in this regard is regional cooperation where Croatia plays very active role. The outstanding issues that may reflect on stability of the region, such as return of the refugees, are high on the priority list of my Government. Croatia has therefore, adopted the Action Plan for the voluntary return of refugees till the end of the next year.

We have significantly improved bilateral relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and will continue to do so in the future. Just a few days ago after the discussion two delegations had, I believe that remaining open issues will be successfully resolved in the near future. One of these issues is identification and delimitation of the land and sea border in the area of Prevlaka. Intensive negotiations are in progress and we believe that some form of temporary solution may be reached soon. Anyhow, the situation on Prevlaka does not represent a threat to peace and security anymore, and therefore we believe that the UN mission on Prevlaka has successfully accomplished its mandate and consequently it should not be extended after the current one expires.

In regard to the question of the border issues I would further like to report on an important success in reaching an agreement on the northern part of the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The agreement was reached through the valuable efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Bosnia and Herzegovina, to whom we sincerely thank. At this point, and shortly before the end of the UN presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I would like to express my Government's appreciation for the UN's overall contribution to the stability and development of the country.

On the other hand, we can not but express our deep frustration with the continuos failure to apprehend two of the most notorious war criminals todate - namely, Karadzic and Mladic. We strongly reiterate the view that lasting stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina may only be achieved with the arrest and extradition of Karadzic and Mladic to the appropriate authorities. Bringing these two individuals to trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia would serve as a closure for many victims that suffered terribly. The same goes for Sljivancanin and Radic, indicted by the Tribunal for the war crimes committed on the territory of Croatia.

Mr. President,

Having faith in the maxim no peace without justice, my Government attaches highest importance to bringing to justice all those guilty of war crimes. We are committed to maintain the good and extensive cooperation, that this Government has established with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and urge other countries in its mandate to do so. However, that does not diminish the key role that domestic trials for war crimes play in the process of healing and national reconciliation. The Croatian judiciary is willing and capable to meet these challenges.

In this spirit, the Republic of Croatia welcomed the entry into force of the Rome Statute and looks forward to the operationalization of the ICC. The establishment of the first permanent international criminal court is crucial in putting an end to the culture of impunity and selective justice. By strengthening the universal rule of law, which in turn leads to the advancement of universal peace and security, this new Court holds a promise of becoming a true guarantor of the ideals enshrined in the UN Charter.

Mr. President,

Fundamental and common interests for world peace, security and development require our concerted and united efforts. This, 57th General Assembly Session, I am confident will take us a step further in realising these common goals.

Thank you, Mr. President.