I spent the summer of last year in Opatija. Together with my whole family, we visited the areas surrounding Rijeka, we went to Rovinj, to Rab and Krk islands, and it is with joy that I realised that the fascination with Croatia, with its landscapes, culture and history, is handed down in my family from generation to generation. We even call my youngest grandson, not by his Polish name Michał, but
Wandering around Opatija, I discovered with satisfaction many Polish traces. Among those who used to visit were the Polish Nobel laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz, and the father of Polish independence – Józef Piłsudski. It is genuinely touching how much devotion you put into preserving those traces. No-one can understand the history of Croatia better than a Pole, no-one can understand Poland better than a Croat. It is no coincidence that your patriotic song written by Ljuderit Gaj begins with the same words of the Polish anthem:
Još Hrvatska ni propala dok mi živimo, visoko se bude stala kad ju zbudimo….
I know how highly you value your independence. You have paid for it a high price. Twenty-five years ago, Europe and the United Nations recognised your independence in the belief that Croatia would become a part of the political community, for whom freedom, peace, respect for others, observance of international rules and order, are genuine priorities.
And you have not let us down. You have used those twenty-five years well. While carrying the baggage of difficult experiences and healing wounds after a cruel war, you were able to protect your nation against hatred, and you started the great work of building a modern European state. Europe highly values your political maturity, patience and consistency. Thanks to your efforts, the whole region is enjoying an increasingly good reputation, while the reconciliation of feuding nations, although very difficult, is becoming a reality. You are a sign of hope for the change of dreadful fate, which has so harshly, for whole centuries, tested this part of Europe.
I know how difficult this process is, how much sacrifice, and what strategic imagination, it requires. I deeply believe that you will succeed in this work, united internally as well as with the whole of Europe. Independence and democracy do not always have a sweet taste, I know something about this. Conflicts and differences are inherent in the logic of history and in our everyday life. That is why it is so important to continuously search for what connects us, over and over again, tirelessly. You also often argue among each other, also in this building, about your future; that is normal. It is essential, however, that you continue in this great effort for the sake of peace and stability in the region and in the whole of Europe. You have every right to be proud of these twenty-five years, and this pride connects all Croats. Europe is also proud of you and your achievements.
This is why, with full conviction, as your friend, as a Pole, a European and President of the European Council, I would like to recall here, before you, the words of your national anthem:
Lijepa nasa domovino, Oj junacka zemljo mila, Stare slave djedovino, da bi vazda sretna bila!
This is an English translation of the speech, President Donald Tusk delivered the speech in Croatian