NATIONAL FEDERATION OF CROATIAN AMERICANS SPEARHEADS DRIVE TO FORM CONGRESSIONAL CROATIAN CAUCUS
Washington, D.C. (February 3, 2005). The National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) welcomed the official establishment of the Congressional Croatian Caucus which was formally announced at a reception hosted by theNFCA at the Rayburn Congressional Office Building on Capitol Hill last Tuesday evening. Approximately 150 invited guests attended the reception which featured an assortment of Croatia's finest wines and excellent Croatian cuisine created by Chef Ivo Svircic and provided by the Croatian Embassy. TheNFCA reception was funded in part by special donations from Mike Grgich, Jure Sola, Tony Peraica, Janet Robert and Jamie Coleman.
The bipartisan Co-Chairs of this new Caucus, Rep. George P. Radanovich (R-CA) and Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), welcomed all those present and discussed their long-standing desire to establish this important association of Members of Congress interested in promoting Croatian-American relations. That both Co-Chairs are of Croatian descent gives even further emphasis to this historic event for the Croatian American community.
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) also addressed those present, noting that he too has a personal connection to Croatia through his daughter-in-law, a native of Split. Congressman Gallegly in particular noted his deep appreciation of Croatia's beauty which he experienced first hand when his son and daughter-in-law recently renewed their marriage vows there. Rep. Gallegly will chair the Europe Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee in the 109th Congress.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) gave a short but powerful speech in which he spoke about his personal involvement in Croatia's struggle to gain independence and freedom for its people. He said he admired the strength and resolve of the Croatian people during this difficult period.
The Croatian Ambassador to the United States, Neven Jurica, said a few words about Croatia's determination to join Euro-Atlantic institutions and viewed the creation of the new Caucus as a step toward fulfilling that goal. Ambassador Jurica also welcomed a number of honored guests from Croatia, including Bozo Biskupic, the Minister of Culture, and Dr. Mario Zubovic, a member of the Croatian Parliament.
NFCA President Edward A. Andrus gave remarks on behalf of the Croatian American community thanking the bipartisan Co-Chairs and Founding Members while pledging to support the Caucus as it engages on important matters relevent to the community and the Republic of Croatia. He noted that the structuring of the Caucus was a government relations task which demanded much effort and many resources, not only from the NFCA but from other individuals and organizations. Mr. Andrus specifically mentioned the assistance provided by the Croatian Fraternal Union, Dr. Frank Brozovich, the former President of the Croatian American Association (CAA) and Honorary Consul of the Republic of Croatia, and Cook County Commissioner Anthony J. Peraica, a former board member of theNFCA and President of theCAA's Illinois Chapter. Mr. Andrus also recognized in the audience the presence of Dr. Jasenka Piljac from Zagreb, who coauthored an English language book on the Croatian origins of the Zinfandel grape which the NFCA will be presenting to all 41 of the Founding Members of the Caucus as an expression of its appreciation for their efforts on Croatia's behalf. (A copy of the "Zinfandel" book can be ordered fromNFCA Headquarters for $ 35.)
In addition to the four Congressmen who spoke, thirteen other Congressmen, both members and non-members of the Croatian Caucus made an appearance at the reception: Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Rep. Judy Biggert (R- IL), Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Rep. Phil English (R- PA), Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Rick Larsen (R-WA), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). The event was also attended by scores of Congressional officials and staff members, representatives from the State Department, leaders of the Croatian-American community from throughout the United States, a number of prominent Croatian-Americans in the Washington, D.C. area and Dr. Thomas P. Melady, former US Ambassador to the Vatican and Senior Dipolmat in Residence at the Institute of World Politics. Tony Butala of "The Lettermen" singing group and members of the press were also present.
Speaking after the event, NFCA President Edward Andrus reiterated the importance of the establishment of the Caucus and the NFCA's role in same. "There had been talk for some time about the need to establish a Caucus. The NFCA had a number of discussions concerning the idea with Congressmen Radanovich and Visclosky and their staffs. They all expressed their enthusiasm and we worked closely with their staffs in order to contact members of Congress to encourage them to join the Caucus as Founding Members. In this regard, not only did we rely on our own members but we teamed with non-members as well to have them reach out to their Congressional contacts. After all, while theNFCA played the key role in moving this concept forward, the Caucus itself is not a creature of theNFCA but is something from which the entire Croatian-American community and the Republic of Croatia will benefit."
In further discussing how the NFCA will work with the Croatian Caucus, Mr. Andrus said that theNFCA now has the enhanced ability to communicate with a group of Congressmen who have expressed a keen interest in issues related to Croatia. "Up until now, doing effective lobbying in Congress has been hampered without the Caucus. We had to concentrate on approaching individual Congressmen when we had some ideas or issues related to improving Croatian-American relations and the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina. Now we have a group which on its first day of existence consists of almost 10% of all members of Congress. This will, we hope, allow the NFCA and the Croatian-American community as a whole the ability to more effectively present their views to Congress and have Congress as a whole take those views under serious consideration."
Mr. Andrus noted that the establishment of the Caucus will now actually require the NFCA and Croatian Americans to "step up to the plate" in a more consistent manner. "We now have this most efficient means to have Congress listen to our concerns, and there are many of them. Croatia's entry into NATO and other Euro-Atlantic institutions continues to encounter difficult obstacles which our elected Representatives can help to remove. Our community must become more engaged to make use of this opportunity and in that regard I urge all Croatian Americans to join us in further building on what I believe to be one of the greatest successes the NFCA has had to date."
The 41Founding Members of the Congressional Croatian Caucus are as follows:
Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) - Co-Chair, Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) - Co-Chair, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Rep. John Duncan (R-TN), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Phil English (R-PA), Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (R-IL), Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Rep. Melissa Hart (D-PA), Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), Rep. Rick Larsen (R-WA), Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA), Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS), Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), Rep. Lynn Woosley (D-CA), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA).
The NFCA is a national umbrella organization of Croatian-American groups which collectively have approximately 130,000 members.
For more information, please call Joe Foley, (NFCA) Government Relations Director, at 301-294-0937 or Erik Milman, theNFCA's Director of Development, at the NFCA's headquarters in Washington at 202-331-2830 or by email at NFCAhdq@aol.com.