New government

Pusic: Frst moves - EU referendum, formation of arbitration tribunal

11.12.2011 u 22:37


Croatian People's Party (HNS) vice-president Vesna Pusic said on Sunday evening that if appointed Minister of Foreign and European Affairs her first moves would be preparations for a referendum on Croatia's accession to the European Union, work on forming an international arbitration tribunal for the border dispute with Slovenia, and an agreement with EU institutions on the status of Croatian observers in the European Parliament.

Speaking in an interview with Croatian Radio, Pusic said that if appointed minister she would most likely first visit Brussels and then neighbouring countries, members and non-members of the EU, while simultaneously working on a 2012 budget.

"It will be a Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, because we have completed the integration process, and European affairs will be conducted from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Pusic said when asked if she agreed to the possibility of EU Integration being organised as a separate office.

Pusic said that membership of the European Union would bring Croatia increased stability and greater opportunities. "No one will do anything instead of us, but if we are able to do something, we will have a much greater chance than we would have if we stayed outside the EU," she said, adding that in the first half of 2013 Croatia would have access to some 200 million euros, and 449 million euros from cohesion funds.

Pusic said that Croatia should therefore adjust its budget to new circumstances, noting that overall spending of EU funds would be monitored by the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.

"In rural development, agriculture and railways we have been poor in drawing EU funds," she said, citing the case of Poland which had also been poor in using pre-accession funds, but which had made most of the cohesion funds after accession.

Pusic said that in the next four or even eight years, Croatia's foreign policy would focus on EU membership and its position in the new environment, and on the region.

"Our membership of the European Union will play an important role in our policy towards the region and it will also be important for our image within the EU," she said, adding that Croatia's experience from the EU accession process would be of great benefit to its neighbours when it came to institutional and political development.

Pusic said that Croatia had different outstanding issues with its neighbours, citing war-related issues with Serbia, such as missing persons, war crimes, and looted property. "If we manage to settle those issues through a bilateral agreement, then in my opinion we should put the issue of our mutual genocide lawsuits on the table," she said.

As regards Slovenia, she said that the deadline had started today for the appointment of a president and two arbitrators of the arbitration tribunal who would, along with two more members, decide on the border dispute between the two countries.

Pusic said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was crucial for the stability of the entire region.

When asked about cooperation between the new government and the President of the Republic, Pusic said that it would be good because both sides understood Croatian interests and were ready to work on them. She said she would request a regular form of communication with President Josipovic to ensure effective achievement of Croatian foreign policy goals.