President Mesić attends the Federation of Balkan-American Associations (HINA)
Croatia's President Stjepan Mesić and Foreign Minister Gordan Jandroković on Wednesday attended a reception for Southeast European leaders attending the 64th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, organised by the Federation of Balkan-American Associations and the Department for International Relations of Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.
The event, held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, was entitled "Challenges of the Third Millennium: A Lasting Peace and Progress in the Balkans". It was attended by the highest officials from a dozen Southeast European countries - Turkey, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo, with the exception of Serbia.
The purpose of the annual FEBA reception is to contribute to the promotion of common goals and ideals, peace and progress, and harmonious inter-ethnic relations in the region. The FEBA president Aras Konjhodžić said that more than five million people from Southeast Europe today live in the United States. Cooperation between their associations and communities and between institutions of their countries of origin can help change the negative perception of the Balkans, he said.
Describing the Balkans as the cradle of civilisations, with a rich and diverse cultural heritage, he said that unfortunately the first meaning of the word "Balkanisation" in dictionaries was division into small entities, often hostile towards each other.
Konjhodžić said that in the coming years FEBA would organise a number of seminars and art exhibitions in the USA, and promote with Rutgers University cooperation between universities in the region and the United States, with the aim of changing the negative perception of the Balkans.
Addressing the event, President Mesić stated that the future of countries in the region was membership in the European Union. "By cooperating with one another, those countries prove their suitability for EU membership," he said.
Southeast European countries are looking for and finding ways of cooperating with one another, President Mesić emphasized, calling on emigrant communities to help in the process by cooperating with one another.
The FEBA reception was attended, among others, by Albanian President Bamir Topi, a member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's collective state presidency, Haris Silajdzić, Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu, and Macedonian President Djordji Ivanov.
Asked about possible criticisms in Croatia that after linking Croatia with Cuba, he was now linking it with the Balkans, President Mesić said that "people need to know where they live, because Croatia is partly a Balkan country".
"All countries in the region want to join the EU and we should help each other in that process. Croatia has made most progress in that regard and we are willing to help others as others are helping us. That is the purpose of this gathering and that is the message to people in the region," President Mesić stressed.
Asked to comment on an address by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to the UN, who caused considerable confusion with his hour-and-a-half long tirade against the UN and Western countries, Croatian President said that it was an "unusual speech with very many topics, which is difficult to assess".
Earlier in the day, on the fringes of the UN General Assembly session, President Mesić met the presidents of Austria, Albania, Cyprus and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the prime minister of Montenegro, the Emir of Qatar and other high officials.