Newsletter 8/2010 - Our South East Europe

INTERVIEW with Gordan Jandrokovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Croatia

Regional cooperation anchors European values in South East Europe

Minister Jandrokovic, how would you assess regional cooperation in 2010 and what are your expectations for the next year?

The European perspective of the countries of South East Europe is the best guarantee for the overall prosperity of the entire region. In this regard, regional cooperation serves as an essential tool for anchoring European values in South East Europe, and as such it is conducive to the European Union (EU) integration process. Therefore, regional cooperation is and will remain one of Croatia’s key foreign policy objectives. In contributing to regional cooperation and supporting the European future of each respective country in South East Europe, Croatia is actively and continuously transferring its experience and knowledge gained in its European integration process.

In 2010, Croatia continued to play an active role in a wide range of regional organizations and initiatives, giving its contribution to regional development, strengthening good neighbourly relations and political dialogue. In the year to come, Croatia will keep its focus on project-oriented regional programmes, with the aim to give additional impetus to interconnectedness of South East Europe. A comprehensive approach to regional cooperation, which includes the principle of regional ownership, as well as making the most of project-oriented cooperation, is the priority of cross-border and transnational activities of Croatia.

What are the concrete priorities of Croatia for the next year in regional cooperation, considering also the latest European Commission’s enlargement strategy paper and progress reports?

Croatia welcomes the latest European Commission’s enlargement strategy paper, which emphasises the need of both the EU and the aspirant countries to work together in realising common objectives. Croatia will continue to enhance bilateral and regional cooperation in areas such as police and judiciary cooperation, so as to further develop regional initiatives in the area of combating organised crime and trafficking of goods and people, as well as the fight against corruption. At the same time, protection of natural environment, boosting trade and business entrepreneurship and cooperation in the field of energy supply, will also play an important role in Croatia’s activities towards the region. These priority areas of Croatia also coincide with those highlighted in the Commission’s enlargement strategy paper and progress reports.

Which further reforms and steps do you consider most important on your country’s path towards EU membership?

The fact that all the chapters in Croatia’s accession negotiations are opened and 25 of them provisionally closed proves that our work is almost done, and that it is realistic to expect the conclusion of negotiations and the signing of the Accession Treaty in the course of 2011.

The final stage of the accession process is not only about fulfilling the remaining criteria. It goes without saying that we are not losing out of sight all what remains to be achieved, mostly so in Chapters 8- Competition Policy and 23- Judiciary and Fundamental Rights. Therefore, in the following period we will continue to put the main emphasis on areas such as restructuring of the shipbuilding sector, reform of the judiciary and public administration, as well as fight against corruption and organised crime. In the months to come, we will also streamline our efforts towards conducting an extensive campaign aimed at informing our citizens about specific implications of EU membership prior to the referendum to be held after the signing of the Accession Treaty. In parallel, we are also thinking ahead and undertaking the necessary preparations for the post-accession period, since it is our aim to assume all obligations stemming from membership and achieve full integration as soon as possible, be it in the Schengen area or the monetary union.

What are the benefits of EU membership for the citizens of Croatia?

Summarising all the benefits of EU membership, I would say that the major one is the significant increase in opportunities for Croatian citizens – be it in terms of business, education, consumer protection or environmental protection. Member states’ citizens are often insufficiently aware of the impact of the membership on their lives, as they take for granted the travel without border controls, as well as education and living or working in another EU member state. Also, it is considered usual to use the same currency in 16 countries, to have one's qualification recognized in another country and to benefit from a large market which, in fact, is the world’s largest player in many areas. All these benefits are what we want for Croatian citizens too.

And what does EU gain by admitting Croatia in its club?

Croatia's EU membership confirms the success of the EU's enlargement policy and contributes to security and stability in South East Europe. In the regional context, Croatia sets an example that the implications of reforms are twofold. While they serve the purpose of fulfilling the EU membership criteria, they also induce an overall transformation of the state and society in question. As an active member of various regional associations, like the Danube Strategy, the Adriatic–Ionian Initiative, the Union for the Mediterranean or the Regional Cooperation Council, Croatia contributes to regional development which coincides with the goals of the EU's cohesion policy.

Croatia's cultural heritage and contemporary achievements in arts, sports and other areas contribute to Europe’s diversity. Croatia’s largely well-preserved environment not only adds to European natural resources and biodiversity but also enables the expansion of organic food production. All this brands Croatia as a desired tourist destination, thus boosting Europe's competitiveness in the world tourist market.

How is the Croatian Government planning to overcome social and financial difficulties in this period of recovery from the economic recession?

In its last Progress Report, the European Commission recognized Croatia's efforts in dealing with the consequences of the economic crisis and in achieving the desired level of economic development, based on the principles of a functioning market economy. These efforts are in line with the Economic Recovery Programme, a strategic platform in realising the full potential of economic growth and international competitiveness of Croatian economy.

We expect that the implementation of the respective measures will generate economic growth and growth of GDP above the expected 1.5% in 2011.

In this respect, the Croatian Government has also launched a new investment cycle. Amounting to a total of 13.8 billion euro, the cycle covers projects not only in tourism but also in the areas such as energy, transport, water management and the strengthening of small and medium-sized enterprises through Greenfield investments in production.

A number of measures aimed at boosting Croatian competitiveness already show tangible results such as the overall increase of Croatian exports in the first nine months of 2010 by 16%. The amount of exports to the EU countries alone rose by 17%. 

What we want to see in the following period are even better results. In order to achieve them, we will put emphasis on further strengthening the backbone of economic development by creating a better and more supportive business climate through implementation of necessary reforms in the public sector.

How do you comment the EU decision in relation to visa liberalisation for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania?

We welcome the decision on visa liberalization for the citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina who travel to the Schengen area countries. The visa liberalization is an indicator of progress which the two countries have achieved in implementing reforms in crucial areas such as the rule of law, fight against organized crime, corruption, illegal migrations, as well as strengthening the administrative capacities in border control and the security of travel documents.

The Republic of Croatia has strongly advocated visa liberalization for Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This and similar incentives serve as an excellent impetus to all the countries of South East Europe to continue on the reform path leading to EU membership.

How do you see the role of the Regional Cooperation Council in 2011? How could it best advance cooperation to promote European and Euro-Atlantic integration in South East Europe?

The Regional Cooperation Council has a crucial role in stimulating regional cooperation in South East Europe. It has been very successful in identifying common regional needs and in translating those into concrete projects. The comparative advantage of the RCC as an operative body of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) is that since its establishment it has always managed to gather representatives of all the countries of the region around the same table. This has certainly contributed to its success in achieving many envisaged goals and, upon recent adoption of the RCC Strategy and Work Programme 2011-2013, I am sure it will continue to do so in the upcoming years.

Croatia will continue to fully support the RCC as one of the main regional platforms of cooperation and promotion of Euro-Atlantic integration in South East Europe. In this regard, it has established itself as a relevant actor and intermediary between the region and the EU. This specific role puts the RCC in the position to further common interests to the benefit of both sides. Therefore, we expect the RCC to continue and even more vigorously articulate the needs of the region to the EU and, through implementation of concrete projects, add to the internalisation of European values in the region.  

Gordan Jandrokovic was appointed to the position of Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration in 2008. Prior to that, Jandrokovic was member of Croatian Parliament (2003-2008). He holds Bachelor’s degrees from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb.


Gordan Jandrokovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Croatia (Photo:

Gordan Jandrokovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Croatia (Photo: