For Immediate release: September 4, 2009NFCA Delegation Meets with new U.S. Ambassador to Croatia James Foley Washington, DC
-- A National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) delegation of Steve Rukavina, Zvonko Labas, Joe Foley, and NFCA Fellow Jelena Rudela met with the newly approved U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, James Foley, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday September 1st. Cathy Westley, the State Department’s Croatian Desk Officer, also met with the NFCA delegation.
It was a very positive eighty-minute meeting with the sixth U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia. NFCA President Steve Rukavina shared with Ambassador Foley a number of details and information about the NFCA such as how the NFCA was founded and some of Federation’s accomplishments over the years. The group discussed at length details regarding the NFCA’s serious nine-year campaign to support Croatia’s NATO membership, and the NFCA’s spearheading of the development of a Congressional Croatian Caucus in the U.S. Congress. The Ambassador seemed very impressed with the width and depth of issues and initiatives that the NFCA has been engaged in over the last 16 years. He also stated his willingness to collaborate with the NFCA on matters of mutual interest.
The Ambassador quickly shared that NATO-related military meetings with Croatian military officials will be a heavy focus for him during the first few months in Croatia. He mentioned that there is a need for much more military cooperation but not a whole lot of new funding -- even though the International Criminal Court issue is now behind Croatia with the waiver signed. Ambassador Foley cited the need and significance of learning the English language for many Croatian military officers as a key initiative to enhance NATO military meetings over the years ahead.
The NFCA delegation also heard his views about the significance of more business development in Croatia and an increase in valuable American investments in the Republic. The Ambassador was pleased to hear from the NFCA delegation that many Croatian Americans still hope to invest in Croatia. In Ambassador Foley's testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations on July 28th, he stated that: “Croatia still faces important challenges in fully establishing the rule of law and fighting organized crime and corruption against the backdrop of a worsening economy. However, the economic crisis could yet prove to be an opportunity to address systemic barriers to improved competitiveness and growth such as inefficiencies in the public administration and the legal system. The key factor is in the understanding of the Croatian leadership and people that the great reform effort needs to be sustained not because of demands from Brussels but because their country's future economic and political health depends on it.”
The Slovene-Croat bilateral relationship was also reviewed. Ambassador Foley reiterated the U.S position that, as a matter of principle, bilateral differences should not obstruct Euro-Atlantic integration.
The NFCA officials shared with the Ambassador their personal beliefs that the Dayton Peace Accord needs to be revised and that there is an immediate need for constitutional changes to ensure equal rights for all nationalities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The recent Cardinal Vinko Puljic trip from Sarajevo to Washington D.C. was discussed at great length and, most importantly, the issue of property rights in the region was also significantly addressed.
The meeting participants discussed some of the obstacles and specifics that remain regarding the overall bilateral visa issue between the U.S. and the Republic of Croatia. Lastly, the U.S. Ambassador invited the NFCA President Steve Rukavina to visit him when he travels to Zagreb in October.
Ambassador James Foley has a long U.S. Foreign Service career with recent stints in Afghanistan and as Ambassador to Haiti. He is formerly from the Buffalo, NY area.
Formatted for CROWN by Marko Puljić
|(L-R) Zvonko Labas, NFCA Past National Treasurer; Ambassador James Foley; Steve Rukavina, NFCA President; Jelena Rudela, NFCA Fellow; and Joe Foley, NFCA Director of Public Affairs, at the U.S. State Department in Washington on September 1, 2009.|
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