Croatia Vows to Bring Balkans Closer to EU


By Boris Pavelic | Zagreb
July 2, 2013

President Ivo Josipovic met the leaders of seven other western Balkan countries on Monday, the first day of Croatia’s EU membership, emphasising that Zagreb wanted all its regional neighbours to join the European club.

“Croatia has become a better society and I hope our neighbours will also complete this journey, as quickly as possible,” Josipovic told Serbia’s Beta news agency after the meeting.

The presidents of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia attended the breakfast meeting alongside Josipovic.

They agreed on the importance of continued EU enlargement and resolving critical topics in informal meetings.

They also discussed possible cooperation over EU-related issues and joint infrastructure construction.

Josipovic said that the meeting was a joint initiative by Croatia and Slovenia, the only western Balkan countries which became EU members so far, aimed at putting together a group that would meet regularly and demonstrate that other states in the region have the will and the ability to cooperate and to join the EU, despite their mutual problems.

It was planned that every forthcoming meeting between the regional leaders would be attended by a top European official and one of the EU member states.

The initiative has the support of France, Germany, Great Britain and EU institutions, journalists were told in Josipovic’s office.

Josipovic said that the next meeting would be held in Slovenia in couple of months, adding that French President Francois Hollande had said he was prepared to  participate.

Monday’s meeting was held using the so-called ‘Gymnich formula’, a format for informal talks at which no state symbols are displayed, thus allowing Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic to sit at the same table with Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga.

The Kosovo and Serbian presidents shook hands before the meeting, as did Croatian and Serbian presidents Ivo Josipovic and Tomislav Nikolic, who met for the first time at Croatia’s EU accession celebration in Zagreb on Sunday.

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