One of the most prestigious honors imparted by the Croatian government is The Order of Stjepan Radic. The distinction is bestowed upon individuals who have served and sacrificed for the national and social rights of Croatia, and few native Croatians — and even fewer foreigners — have ever been awarded the decoration.
Pikesville resident Matthew Mark Horn, a longtime government policy and foreign relations expert and the former director of the American Jewish Congress, can add his name to that exclusive list.
Horn, 49, was presented The Order of Stjepan Radic for his work spearheading Croatia’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a process that began in August 2008 and culminated when the nation was ultimately added in April 2009. Horn received a hand-painted decree and its accompanying medals at a ceremony at the Embassy of Croatia in Washington, D.C., last July.
“Recognizing the importance of Matt’s contribution to the security and stability of Croatia, the government made decorating him its priority,” Croatia ambassador to the U.S. Josko Paro said at the ceremony.
A veteran with a diverse background in international affairs, Horn outwardly advocated for Croatia after hearing that individuals from some Jewish communal organizations were lobbying the Senate to stall the country’s admission. Horn reasoned that the organizations were attempting to use the NATO membership process as a way to leverage Croatia into acting more quickly and more substantially with Holocaust reparations.
However, Horn explained, reparation matters are ongoing in the Croatian court system. He also said that the country achieving NATO status was of paramount importance to its welfare, and he wrote multiple letters of support on its behalf.
“NATO is the most important military defensive alliance in the world,” Horn said. “It’s a deterrent. If you attack a NATO member, in theory and in legality, you’ve attacked the entire [28-member] alliance.”
Horn added that he was extremely humbled by the honor.
“You don’t expect to be rewarded for doing what you think is right,” he said. “The fact that people, officials of all political stripes in Croatia … all agreed that I should be recognized for this — I was blown away.”