- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Croatian democracy

The new democracies in Eastern Europe all faced the same hurdles of crime, corruption and official abuse of power in their transitions from communism, the president of Croatia told the American Bar Association.

President Stjepan Mesic, on a visit to Washington over the weekend, urged the United States and other established democracies to "lend a helping hand" to those countries to they could enshrine the rule of law.

"All transitional countries, Croatia included, have taken the same burden with them on their path to democracy a mentality that associates governmental authority with privilege," he told the ABA's annual meeting.

"It is thus essential for all transitional governments to assure the rule of law, where such phenomena as crime, corruption and unfair privileges are sanctioned and not treated as an expression of [destructive] politics, a case very common among transitional countries."

Mr. Mesic said the West has a self-interest in promoting democracy.

"By lending a helping hand to transitional countries so that they could conclude their transition processes as quickly and successfully as possible, democratic countries are also working on behalf of their own interests," he said.

Mr. Mesic attended the ABA meeting to receive its annual Central and Eastern European Initiative award for the promotion of democracy. Mr. Mesic was elected in 2000 to replace an interim government installed after the death of former President Franjo Tudjman, whom the West had criticized for authoritarian policies.

"I am aware that the process of democratization of Croatia is not yet complete," Mr. Mesic said. "But the course we have charted is clear, just as our commitment is clear."


Estonia's progress

President Bush has invited the prime minister of Estonia to visit Washington next month to show support for the country's political and economic progress, the White House said yesterday.

"The visit provides an opportunity for the president to recognize the great progress that Estonia has made over the last decade in implementing a free-market, democratic transformation," spokesman Scott McClellan said from the Western White House in Crawford, Texas. "The United States appreciates Estonia's support in the war on terrorism."

Prime Minister Siim Kallas will be making his first visit to Washington since taking office in January in a parliamentary shake-up that has brought his Reform Party to power in the coalition government.

His Sept. 4 visit will come a week before the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr. Kallas' predecessor, Mart Laar, met Vice President Richard B. Cheney on a visit to Washington in October.

The Estonian Embassy said Mr. Kallas will discuss Estonia's bid for NATO membership, along with the war against terrorism and bilateral issues.

"For us, the most important issue is NATO enlargement," said charge d'affaires Eerik Marmei.

Estonia, which embraced free-market reforms quickly after the collapse of communism, is spending the NATO average of 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. That figure is up from 1.4 percent in 1999. The new spending represents about $125 million out of an economy of about $6.2 billion.

Estonia is one of nine countries seeking membership in the Western alliance at the NATO summit in November in Prague.


Returning to Korea

Joon-yeob Han came to town 2½ years ago when Washington was a different place. The South Korean diplomat returns home on Saturday knowing that he and the world have been changed forever by September 11.

"Through this tragic event, the world has learned that we could all come together as friends, leaving our differences behind, to fight for the common cause," Mr. Han said in a farewell letter to his friends.

"My all too brief stay in Washington, during the challenging and extraordinary time of the post-millennium, has given me the opportunity to get to know and understand America and her great people."

Mr. Han, the embassy's public diplomacy minister, will assume the post of director of the Korean Information Service in Seoul.

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