Croatia takes over the one-year presidency of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), the most important forum for political dialogue in this part of Europe, from Bulgaria on Wednesday.
The presidency will be taken over at the SEECP summit in Sofia by Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac instead of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who cancelled her trip on Tuesday.
Speaking at a preparatory meeting of SEECP foreign ministers in Pravec, about 60 kilometres from Sofia, on Tuesday, Kovac said that during its presidency Croatia would continue providing support to its neighbours on their path to EU membership.
"Croatia will support candidate countries and potential candidates on their EU path," Kovac told a joint press conference held by the SEECP troika, including the present, previous (Albanian) and future presidents, on Tuesday evening.
Among the priorities of the Croatian presidency, Kovac cited encouraging cooperation in dealing with the migrant crisis in the spirit of solidarity, improving transport, energy and communications links in Southeast Europe and promoting dialogue, especially its parliamentary aspect.
Curbing all forms of radicalisation and terrorism will also be in the focus of the Croatian presidency, as well as promoting cooperation in science and education and providing assistance in humanitarian crises.
Kovac said that Croatia would continue cooperating with the Regional Cooperation Council, the SEECP's operating body based in Sarajevo.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov recalled that the priorities of the Bulgarian SEECP presidency over the last year were establishing energy and transport links in the region, cooperation in dealing with the migrant crisis, and promoting and protecting media freedoms and freedom of expression. He said that Bulgaria saw no other prospect for the Western Balkans but EU membership.
The SEECP was launched 20 years ago on Bulgaria's initiative to strengthen political, economic and security cooperation between the participating countries and promote their EU accession prospects. The founders are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. They were later joined by Moldova, Montenegro, Slovenia and Kosovo. Croatia joined as an observer in 1997 and became a full member in 2004.
Croatia already held the SEECP presidency in 2006/2007.