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Croatia's President-Elect Hopes To Help Stabilize Balkans

Croatian voters last week elected Social Democrat candidate Ivo Josipovic as their next president. Josipovic, a law professor and composer who based his campaign on a pledge to fight corruption, won the January 10 ballot with 60 percent of the vote. RFE/RL's Balkan Service correspondent Mirjana Rakela conducted an exclusive interview by telephone with Josipovic on January 15 about fighting corruption and bringing more stability to the Balkans.

RFE/RL: On election day, you promised to serve without compromise in the fight against corruption and organized crime in Croatia. Expectations among Croatian citizens are pretty high. How are you going to deal with those problems according to your constitutional powers?

Ivo Josipovic:
The president has constitutional powers because he is in charge of the secret services and security services, and I will ask them to focus their activities on corruption and organized crime. Secondly, all high officials including the president must promote the idea of the fight against corruption and to form a special state of mind in our population and not make any compromise with corruption.

RFE/RL: What role can Croatia play in the stabilization of the Balkan region?

I will try to promote initiatives to make a relationship between Croatia and neighboring countries -- especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia -- as good as possible. This is in our strategic national interest because of security and because of the economy. It is much better to trade and to exchange cultural goods than to fight in political fights.

RFE/RL: Does Croatia plan to put its arguments with Serbia aside and, perhaps, act as a kind of mentor in helping Serbia and Bosnia in their own EU membership bids?

I think it's in our common interest -- in Croatia's interest as well -- that all those countries find themselves as soon as possible in the European Union. So I hope Croatia will be in the European Union at the very beginning of 2012 and then, of course, we can help our neighboring countries, our friends, to enter the EU as well.

RFE/RL: Inauguration day is an opportunity to invite some heads of state from the region to Croatia. Who would you like to see there? Who would you like to invite or have you already sent the invitations?

All countries with diplomatic relations with Croatia are invited. The invitation was already sent. I would like to see every single president here in Zagreb. It will be good promotion for Croatia and for Zagreb.

RFE/RL: Which country in the region are you going to visit first?

It is not easy to say. Of course, I am going to visit everyone. I think it is not important whether I will do it on Monday or on Friday. It's the same group of countries. It's the same interest and it is the same will to build friendship and cooperation.

RFE/RL: What can you do to contribute to political stability in Bosnia as outgoing President Stipe Mesic was doing?

It's now very important for Bosnian nations -- Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks -- to find an appropriate constitutional solution for their country because the Dayton Agreement is obviously now out of date. The new agreement should be reached in negotiations between the three nations. From Croatia, from Serbia, from any other country [in the region] -- all of those countries should not give final results, final solutions, to the Bosnian people because every single proposal or every single final result pushed from outside is not good. The three nations [within Bosnia] have to do it themselves.

RFE/RL: You are a musician. How will you fit in music and composing with your new role as head of state?

Obviously I will have less time to compose. But I can catch some time and pick up a score and write some notes.

RFE/RL: You said that you are willing to play the piano for foreign statesmen. What kind of music, for example, might you play to the EU president and what kind for U.S. President Barack Obama if he visits Croatia?

I think for the European president, the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven is appropriate and for the American president, I would perform some national music -- especially folk music -- because the richness of our folk music is very important.

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