Croatian parliament speaker addresses bilateral relations during visit to Bosnia

Sarajevo - Croatian Parliament Speaker Josip Leko said in Sarajevo on Tuesday that good relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were exceptionally important for Croatia but that some issues such as the construction of the Pelješac bridge connecting Croatia's southern most region with the rest of the country should be resolved in line with Croatia's interest and that this was an interior matter.

Leko is heading a parliamentary delegation on a two-day official visit to BiH which includes Social Democratic Party (SDP) club leader Igor Dragovan and the chairman of the Committee on Croats outside the Republic of Croatia Ivan Šuker as well as MP Perica Jelečević.

After the meeting with members of both houses of parliament, Leko said the talks were exceptionally cordial, open and constructive even though agreement had not been reached over some contentious matters. -It is very important that we agree that BiH and Croatia are neighbourly, friendly, partner-like countries, Leko said recalling that the two countries had identical positions toward strategic objectives such as Euro-Atlantic integration for example. -We have identical positions toward strategic aims and interests and reasons to cooperate in all fields, bilaterally and multilaterally, said Leko. He recalled that Croatia had an obligation toward the European Union to resolve some issues, such as trade, trilaterally.

Although the two countries have not entirely dealt with the question of borders, the temporary regime is functioning well and permanent solutions should be sought through the continuation of talks, Croatia's parliament speaker concluded. He confirmed that Croatia was prepared to ratify agreements on the Ploče port and passage through Neum as well as step up activities on the Adriatic-Ionian motorway and Vc corridor. Commenting on the construction of a bridge to the Pelješac peninsula in southern Croatia, Leko stressed that this is a matter of strategic interest for Croatia to connect its territory which is also EU territory.

-Croatia considers that the issue of the Pelješac bridge is an interior matter and the construction of this bridge will not jeopardise the interests of BiH. We will continue to actively discuss this with BiH but we will not refrain from connecting our territories as that is connecting territories of the EU," he said. Commenting on internal affairs in BiH, Leko said that Croatia was interested in seeing Bosnia function democratically and that it advocated Bosnia's European prospects. He stated that this meant that equality of all three constitutional peoples was not a threat to a civic BiH. Leko suggested better cooperation between law-making bodies in the two countries and so regular meetings would be organised between the heads of both parliaments.

Speaker of the BiH House of Representatives Denis Bećirović referred to Leko as a friend of BiH, stressing that the talks with Leko were open and sincere. Although unresolved matters existed, there is nothing that cannot be resolved, he added. He underscored the need to strengthen economic cooperation, adding that BiH also wished to reduce its trade deficit. Bosnia's imports from Croatia amount to EUR 1.13 billion while its exports amount to EUR 550 million. Bećirović added that it was necessary to resolve property matters and the temporary ban by Croatia to employ workers from Bosnia. He stressed it was vital to come to a final agreement on borders as the 1999 agreement has never been ratified. - We consider that it is important to resolve the question of the sea border. BiH is a maritime country that signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and we have an unquestionable right to have access to the high seas, said Bećirovic.

Author: Hina