AMBASSADOR MERTEN: Good morning, everybody. I have the great pleasure to introduce someone who needs no introduction, as you all know.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR MERTEN: We are, Madam, Secretary, on behalf of my colleagues here at the Embassy and also for our operation host, we’re delighted to welcome you to Zagreb. We and the Embassy team had a great time preparing for your visit, and I think – I know our Croatian hosts were very delighted to welcome you here. It means a lot to all of us.
Without any further ado, our Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Ken. (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful to be here in Zagreb and to have a chance to visit with all of you. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for actually four years, so I’m glad I’m finally here. And it’s also a great pleasure to be here with Ambassador Merten. Before joining you in Croatia, Ken was our Ambassador in Haiti. Before that, he helped fly me around the world by providing all kinds of logistical and other support. He has been a great leader because he was our Ambassador during the earthquake in Haiti and all of the work we did afterwards to try to rebuild Haiti. And I also know he’s had a smooth transition thanks to Hoyt Yee. Is Hoyt here? Hoyt, thank you. Thank you for your leadership as chargé. We really appreciated it.
Yesterday when I met with the President and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, we spoke about how much progress Croatia has made on the path to European integration. We look forward to final EU membership next year. And we are delighted at our relationship, which has never been closer. You’re doing so much to promote educational opportunities for bright young Croatians to study overseas. You’re working with Croatian leaders to help strengthen rule of law to fight corruption. You’re working with Croatia on behalf of change in the rest of the region so that other nations can follow the Croatian model.
I also very much appreciate the annual Ron Brown Forum that the Embassy hosts. Ron was a dear friend of my husband’s and mine, and as you know, he was on a mission to bring economic empowerment and opportunity to the Balkans, and he died along with 34 others, Americans and Croatians, in that 1996 plane crash. But his memory and legacy live on with the forum and we greatly appreciate the work that you are doing.
I also brought with me wandering around back there the highest-ranking Croatian American in the Obama Administration, Ambassador Croatia Marshall – I feel that’s her name – (laughter) – Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, right there in the blue, who has been a great friend and associate. But I’d like all the Croatian staff to raise their hand now. Will everyone, all of our Croatian staff – well, no, no, Capricia, you’re actually – (applause) – you’re on the American staff side. But let’s give a big round of applause to our Croatian staff. (Applause.) We’ve had strong relations for 20 years. Have any of you been with us for 20 years? Any of our Croatian team been with – ah, these two young women who – I think we started them and there’s another one; we started when you were 10. (Laughter.)
But I have to say, as you have learned, ambassadors come and go, certainly secretaries come and go, but what remains are our locally employed staff who truly are the brain trust, the memory bank, of every single post. So this is a full team effort. I want to thank all of our American team, civilian and military, Foreign Service and Civil, State and USAID and every other agency. I also want to thank the families. I know that these young people are getting a little anxious to get a picture and I’m going to hurry up because I want to do that for them. But then I want to shake as many hands as possible in order to express personally my gratitude to you. We’re very, very grateful. We see this as a consequential, important relationship going forward. And we want to see Croatia really anchor further progress in the region.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)