Bruxelles, 06 December 2016

FM Stier attends meeting of NATO foreign ministers

(Hina) - Croatia has launched trilateral cooperation with Montenegro and Albania in the economy and environmental protection to strengthen its position in the Adriatic, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Davor Ivo Stier said in Brussels on Tuesday.

Stier was in Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, due to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss cooperation between the EU and NATO, the situation in Southeast Europe, relations with Russia, the cooperation with Ukraine and NATO's operations.

Stier said that the cooperation between Croatia, Albania and Montenegro would be formalised at the start of next year so that the three countries could step up political dialogue regarding the integration of Albania and Montenegro with the EU, their cooperation in the economy and infrastructure, and the protection of the environment, notably the Adriatic.

"I believe that this initiative will strengthen our position in the Adriatic and the security of the Adriatic, and that it is in the interest of Croatia and its neighbours," Stier told reporters.

"It is important to state this today, on the day when we commemorate the fiercest attack on Dubrovnik, when we remember all those who gave their lives defending Dubrovnik and Croatia, when defenders of Dubrovnik mark their day... At the same time, we are forward-looking and want to make sure something like that never happens again. I believe that in that context the debate in the Croatian parliament showed that with its active security and foreign policies Croatia is capable of expanding the area of security and cooperation with the aim of protecting its citizens' safety," Stier said.

Asked about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said that Croatia, Bosnia's allies in NATO and partners in the EU were interested in the stability of that country.

"Our priority is for the country to meet all (membership) criteria, to move stronger towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Bosnia and Herzegovina is expected to carry out a number of reforms, including the reform of its election legislation, so that it could become a more functional and efficient state, a state respecting the equality of its constituent peoples and citizens," said Stier.

Asked if at an intergovernmental accession conference to be held next week Serbia would be able to open talks not only on the policy area Public Procurement but also on the policy areas Education and Culture and Science and Research, Stier said that Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn had spoken about this during his visit to Belgrade and that he had spoken on behalf of all EU members, including Croatia.

"(Hahn) explained everything clearly and sent a message of encouragement for Serbia to carry out all necessary reforms on the path to the EU," said Stier.

Asked by attempts by some Serbian politicians to strain relations with Croatia, Stier said that Croatia wanted to stabilise the situation in Southeast Europe so that all countries in that region could implement the necessary reforms and go through the transformation required for EU membership.

"We will not react and rise to the bait in every single instance, but rather work with commitment to achieve the goals which we believe are in Croatia's best interest, and one of them is a stable neighbourhood," said Stier.