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17 May 2005
16 May 2005
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(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Prime Minister of Croatia Ivo SANADER

Warsaw, 16 May 2005

“At the outset, I would like to thank our host Poland for organising and chairing this important event. The choice of the host country for this Summit also bears a symbolic value of the dynamic changes that the Council of Europe, and our continent as a whole, has recently undergone. Poland is certainly among the best choices to demonstrate both the challenges and success stories of the eventful contemporary history of Europe.

Since our last Summit, less then a decade ago, Europe has gone through enormous changes. What once was only a distant target – a united Europe without dividing lines - today seems to be only a step away from accomplishment.

However, at this important historic juncture, we also have to avoid new divisions of Europe and prevent the building of new walls that might replace the fallen ones. Through the process of extending the space defined by implementation of our core values, we should tend to a unity that will be as complete as possible, real and viable.

It is therefore an honor for me to address this gathering, aimed at setting this oldest European organisation firmly on the 21st century track and to enable it to deal successfully with new challenges.

The last decade has been an equally dynamic period for my country, Croatia. At the last Summit, Croatia was a newcomer, freshly invited into the family of democratic European nations. In the meantime, it has passed the way from a young democracy to a candidate country for membership of the European Union.

Today, as Croatia is preparing itself for the opening of accession negotiations with the EU, we can assess the immense contribution of the Council of Europe to this process. It is the Council of Europe that affirms the values and sets the standards which are the foundation of European unity and the common European spirit. By accepting these values and standards, the first step is made for inclusion in Europe's unifying process on other levels and in other dimensions as well, the highest of them being called – how significantly! – the European Union.

Croatia is firmly determined to reach this final stage and we strongly believe that it is not just a phrase when it is said that the Union cannot be 'complete' without the inclusion of South-Eastern Europe.

It is not surprising that we share the opinion that, in the new European architecture, the Council of Europe should focus on the areas of its proved excellence. Human rights, democracy and rule of law are at the heart of this Organisation, and we welcome their decisive role in planning future priorities.

As Prime Minister of a country that has ratified virtually all Council of Europe legal instruments relating to the protection of human rights, I would like to underline how important the wide acceptance of the standards set out in these conventions is.

These legal instruments are the practical reflection of our shared values. This Summit should also be an opportunity to renew our commitment to respect not only the spirit but also the letter by which this Organisation has expressed its core values.

Croatia shares the opinion that the European Convention and European Court for Human Rights hold a central position in the protection of human rights in Europe. Although this system has been applicable for Croatian citizens for only a relatively short period of time, it has already gained significant appreciation.

We underline the importance of full compliance with the judgments of the Court. Croatia takes this duty very seriously and the practice of the European Court has been diligently translated into our domestic legislation. It is our firm belief that this Summit should give the European Court adequate tools to address the acute problems of its effectiveness, thus enabling it to successfully continue its function as a cornerstone of human rights protection in Europe.

The record of the Council of Europe in establishing human rights standards is remarkable and it would require a very long speech to mention all the instruments that deserve to be praised. I would like, on this occasion, to particularly single out the achievements of the Council of Europe in the field of protection of national minorities.

In the development of minority rights policy in Croatia - which recognises a wide range of specific minority rights - we have often drawn inspiration from the Council’s work. We hope that this field will remain equally important in the future activities of the Council of Europe.

Coming from a country that – despite fresh memories of the independence war -successfully continues to build tolerance and trust among its citizens, allow me to also underline the importance of promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, as well as respect for cultural diversity. These are the tools that may prove to be of vital importance for the peaceful development of the contemporary world. Yet, our work in these fields should not stop at the borders of Europe. Historically, Europe is the cradle of values embodied in the complex of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Therefore, it is Europe’s responsibility to project them – literally radiate them - to the world beyond its geographic borders, until those values permeate international relations generally.

By promoting and developing a culture of democracy, by making democracy the European way of life, by building cohesive societies, we are working primarily on our security. This is how we can successfully fight major challenges of the 21st century, such as terrorism, organised crime, corruption or trafficking in human beings.

Our Summit has to result not only in the awareness of those threats and challenges, but also in creating efficient instruments to combat them. However, it is essential that the values of the Council of Europe remain intact. Our societies are built on those values and they must be respected in the efforts to eradicate new threats to our security.

Furthermore, in focusing our activities on the core values of the Organisation, we should not completely lose sight of other very important fields, such as social cohesion or education, that are an integral part in the full enjoyment of one’s rights and freedoms.

In closing, allow me to once again stress that Croatia remains acutely interested in the activities of the Council of Europe and is prepared to actively contribute to its further development. Croatia also remains confident that this Organisation will continue to play an indispensable role in Europe and that, through our common effort, its standards will be implemented and will indeed reach every one of the 800 million Europeans gathered under the Council of Europe flag.”