Croatia Supports EU Integration of Western Balkans

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ZAGREB, July 10, 2018 – Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said in London on Monday it was important to Croatia to see all Southeast European countries join European associations as soon as possible so that conditions for peace and stability could be created in that part of Europe.

Pejčinović Burić said this after the first day of a two-day EU-western Balkans summit which, as part of the Berlin Process, is focused on issues important for the future of the region. “For us it is important to see all Southeast European countries integrated with European and Euro-Atlantic associations as soon as possible, as this is the only way to create peace, stability and prospects in the region which Croatia is connected to,” Pejčinović Burić told Croatian press.

The London summit is being held as part of the Berlin process, an initiative launched in 2014 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an effort to encourage six Western Balkan countries to persevere in implementing reforms directed to European integration.

Pejčinović Burić said the meeting also focused on migration issues which is important “not only for Southeast Europe and the European Union, but it is also a global issue.” “We discussed ways how to step up cooperation between the EU and the six Western Balkan states and how to intensify bilateral cooperation within those states,” she added.

“We know that one of the migrant routes passes through all these states, it passes through Croatia, Slovenia and Austria as well – the east Mediterranean route which became active again, not to the extent it was before, but active enough that it must be taken into account,” Pejčinović Burić said.

She said the summit also focused on issues related to the legacy from the past, stressing that efforts needed to be invested into resolving war crimes issues, dealing with the past and the issue of missing persons. “For us this is the most important issue from the past,” the minister said, adding that the time had come to find out the truth about the missing people.

“Croatia is currently searching for 1,932 persons at we believe this issue needs to be closed in the next several years,” Pejčinović Burić said. She said the participants in the meeting agreed that the issue of missing persons was important for all and that it was a humanitarian issue.

The meeting in London should have been chaired by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, but following his surprise resignation earlier in the day, the duty of the host was taken over by British Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan.

Britain is to almost double the funding it provides to countries in the Western Balkans to 80 million pounds and ramp up its number of security staff in the region to try and tackle organised crime gangs. The Western Balkans consists of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, all of which want to join the EU. The combination of UK measures pledged over the next two years will see its funding rise from 41 million pounds in 2018/19 to 80 million pounds in 2020/21 and be drawn from its “Conflict, Security and Stability Fund.”

By doubling the number of UK staff working in the Western Balkans on security issues affecting the UK, it hopes to reduce drug-fuelled crime in Britain and strengthen the region’s own response to serious and organised crime and violent extremism.

The meeting in London on Monday was also attended by Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

The two-day London summit is the fifth summit of EU leaders, representatives of EU institutions and senior officials from the countries of Southeast Europe aspiring to join the European Union.


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