Croatia will achieve a big goal by joining the EU but will also encourage other countries in the region to draw closer to the EU, Croatian President Stjepan Mesic said in Rome on Friday after talks with his Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano, who supported a prompt EU accession of Croatia as well as of the other countries in the region.
"We will join the European Union very soon, but our ultimate goal is not that but the accession of the entire Southeast Europe," President Mesic told reporters. He briefed Napolitano about the state of Croatia's accession negotiations. "We can resume the negotiations now that Slovenia has unblocked us after we agreed to separate a bilateral sea border issue from Croatia's European Union accession negotiations." According to President Mesic, Europe is the biggest factor of peace in the world today and a desirable objective for all countries in the region. "When we all open our borders, when we all meet the European standards, we will have a space in which ethnic minorities will be bridges and not a means to conquer the territory of others," President Mesic said, thanking Napolitano for Italy's constant support for Croatia's Euro-Atlantic integration.
"We are interested in Croatia completing the negotiations with the European Union soon," Napolitano said, adding he and President Mesic had talked about the territory of the entire former Yugoslavia. "Italy cares about the European door remaining open for the entry of those countries after Croatia, too," he said.
"Yesterday, Boris Tadic, the president of Serbia, was here. (Serbia) is also going in that direction," Napolitano said, adding Italy realised that the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was critical in the region. President Mesic said "the region's architecture was completed after the disintegration of Yugoslavia," with Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina as "neuralgic points". "Serbia shifted the Kosovo political issue onto an international court, into the legal area, and now a legal solution is pending," he said.
"Bosnia-Herzegovina must survive as a state of three constituent peoples, but the international community and the European Union must help it get the mechanisms that will make it viable, so that it can pursue the path towards the European Union as a sufficiently law-based state," President Mesic said. He arrived in Italy yesterday and held talks with Pope Benedict XVI. He is due to wrap up the Italian trip tomorrow by visiting the Croatian minority in the Molise province as the first Croatian president to do so.