OCTOBER 9 2012 19:16h
PARIS, Oct 9 (Hina) - Croatian President Ivo Josipovic in Paris on Monday presented five French citizens with Croatian state decorations for their contribution to the improvement of Croatian-French relations and to the process of Croatia's accession to the European Union.
"Croatia is celebrating Independence Day today and in 21 years it has gone through many moments of glory and pride which our people will remember forever," Josipovic said at a reception at the Croatian Embassy.
"The EU was one of our more important wishes and among the friends who helped us on that road France is certainly one of the most significant partners," said Josipovic, who is in an official visit to France at the invitation of President Francois Hollande.
Josipovic presented the Order of Duke Branimir with necklace to Jean-Louis Dewost, special advisor to the Croatian government for judicial issues during Croatia's EU accession negotiations, for helping Croatia with his experience and knowledge in the last three years of the negotiations and for assuring French and EU institutions of the progress of Croatia's judiciary.
Guy Legras, whom former French President Jacques Chirac in 2004 appointed Croatian government advisor in negotiations with the EU, notably in agriculture, also received the Order of Duke Branimir with necklace for his advice, ideas, initiatives and solutions in the removal of problems during the negotiations.
Patrick Bloche, a deputy in the French National Assembly, received the Order of Duke Trpimir with necklace and Morning Star. He is the president of the French-Croatian Friendship Group and is credited with linking and the good relations between the National Assembly and the Croatian parliament.
Senator Michele Andre was decorated with the Order of Duke Trpimir with necklace and Morning Star for helping in the development of French-Croatian relations and initiating the adoption of a senatorial European resolution calling on the French government to begin the ratification of Croatia's EU Accession Treaty as soon as possible.
The same decoration was bestowed on Catherine Lalumiere, vice-president of the International European Movement. She was Council of Europe secretary-general when Croatia was admitted into that organisation, in which she helped with Croatia's integration into European institutions.
"We are proud and honoured to be decorated for just doing our job, because we knew long ago that Croatia belongs to Europe," Andre said on behalf of the decorated officials.
She voiced confidence that France would ratify the Accession Treaty by the end of the year. "We must prove our friendship. It's not enough just to tell someone you love them, you must prove it too."
Josipovic arrived in Paris in the afternoon and was welcomed at the airport with military honours.
Asked by the press what he expected of Tuesday's talks with Hollande, he said the meetings with the president and other French officials were a continuation of the friendly relations between the two countries and that it was certainly very important that France ratify the Accession Treaty as soon as possible, voicing hope that this would happen by the end of the year.