SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. We’re here for a very important occasion, but before we get to that, let me say a few words about the situation in Egypt.
We condemn in the strongest terms attacks on reporters covering the ongoing situation in Egypt. This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and is unacceptable under any circumstances. We also condemn in the strongest terms attacks on peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, foreigners, and diplomats. Freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press are pillars of an open and inclusive society. It is especially in times of crisis that governments must demonstrate their adherence to these universal values. There is a clear responsibility by the Egyptian Government, including the army, to protect those threatened and to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks. The Egyptian Government must demonstrate its willingness to ensure journalists’ ability to report on these events to the people of Egypt and to the world.
Vice President Suleiman spoke today about the need for free and fair presidential elections. That is essential. And I urge the government and a broad and credible representation of Egypt’s opposition, civil society, and political factions to begin immediately serious negotiations on a peaceful and orderly transition. The Egyptian people expect a meaningful process that yields concrete changes.
And now let me to turn to this important matter, too. The United States and Croatia enjoy a warm and enduring relationship and friendship. My meeting today with the deputy prime minister and foreign minister comes at a promising moment in Croatia’s history, its pending membership in the European Union. I congratulated the deputy prime minister for taking the difficult steps necessary toward EU membership. We remain hopeful that Croatia will fulfill all of its requirements in the coming months so the Croatian people will earn their rightful place in Europe as soon as possible. The United States supports Croatia’s membership and we are excited about how close you are today in achieving that.
Croatia has shown great commitment as both a global and regional partner. In our meeting today, I expressed America’s appreciation for Croatia’s contributions in Afghanistan, especially in their training of Afghan police forces. In the Western Balkans, Croatia continues to be a leader, and it is a leader in reconciliation. Croatia is an example of a country that not so long ago was engaged in war, subject to civil, political, and economic stress and difficulties, and which made a determination by its leadership and its people to choose a different path.
What Croatia is doing in its efforts toward reconciliation in the region is exemplary. It is engaged in negotiations with Serbia to facilitate the return of refugees and resolve and finalize mutual claims. Croatia is supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s path to reform and Euro-Atlantic integration. Reconciliation doesn’t just build peace for the people of Croatia and the region – it creates economic opportunities for European and American businesses as well.
In advancement of that economic opportunity, today we are signing the Open Skies Agreement. This will allow for an open travel corridor between our two countries, which will go a long way to increasing the flow of tourism to the beautiful country that Croatia is and creating new investment opportunities. We look forward to continuing our partnership and we look forward to Croatia’s prospective membership in the European Union.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JANDROKOVIC: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you very much for your hospitality and really kind words about my country. I am very pleased to be back in Washington and have had this opportunity to meet with you once again, Secretary Clinton.
The Republic of Croatia is grateful for the friendship and support we have enjoyed from the
United States during the almost 20 years since we declared independence. During the past two decades, our relationship has evolved into one of mutual respect, understanding, and partnership, and I am pleased to say that it has never been stronger. Our joint efforts in Afghanistan and Southeast Europe, where we share an unwavering commitment to peace, stability, and prosperity are a testament to that ever-strengthening relationship.
Today, I reaffirmed Croatia’s commitment to our mission in Afghanistan, where we have yet again increased our troop contribution levels, and we – where we are assuming a greater role in mentoring Afghan troops. Croatia will continue to be a responsible and reliable partner in NATO and trusted ally of the United States. Regarding Southeast Europe, I advised the Secretary that Croatia stands ready to share the experience gained in our European and Euro-Atlantic processes with all of the countries of our region and that we will continue to be a proactive partner of the United States (inaudible) Southeast Europe.
We discussed the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatia strongly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its Euro-Atlantic perspective, (inaudible), and constitutional changes. Croatia also emphasized the importance of equal status and the participation of credible representatives of all three constituent peoples in the new government. I particularly underlined the sensitivity of the position of the Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In addition to discussing our common international priorities, today I informed the Secretary of the ambitious agenda that Croatia has set for itself this year. We are working hard to conclude our accession negotiations with the European Union during the Hungarian presidency. I expressed to the Secretary how grateful we are for the encouragement we have received from our American partners throughout the process and particularly now as we enter the final stage of our negotiations.
Our efforts are also focused on strengthening Croatia’s economy. We look forward to developing a stronger economic partnership with the United States. And I am convinced that our signing of the Open Skies Agreement today will result in direct flights between Croatia and the United States and lead to increased tourism opportunities for both of our countries.
We believe that regional trade and investment (inaudible) that we are pleased to be co-hosting with the U.S. in April in Dubrovnik in honor to the late Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, will also contribute to increased economic cooperation. It is our hope that American investors will find numerous opportunities for investment in Croatia in areas such as tourism, energy, transport, and water management.
I expressed to Secretary Clinton Croatia’s continued interest in joining the Visa Waiver Program and I hope that Croatia will soon fulfill criteria and become a member of the program.
Last but not least, I extended an invitation to Secretary Clinton to attend this year’s Croatia summit, and I am hopeful that she will find time in her schedule to visit Croatia during what I believe will be a historic year for my country.
STAFF: The Secretary of State and the Croatian Deputy Prime Minister are signing the Air Transport Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
(The Compact is signed.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you all very much. Thank you.