Croatian parliament speaker says SEE must step up EU integration process

Bucharest - Croatia and Romania believe that Southeast European countries must accelerate the process of joining the European Union and are prepared to help them on that path, Croatian Parliament Speaker Josip Leko said in Bucharest on Monday.

- We jointly concluded that Southeast Europe ... needs to accelerate the process of joining the European Union and Romania and Croatia will share their experience, knowledge and skills with their neighbours so that they can enter the process prepared as much as possible, Leko told reporters after a meeting with his host, the president of the Romanian House of Representatives, Valeriu Stefan Zgonea. Leko is on a two-day official visit to Romania.

-Our shared experience, Croatia's experience from the process of joining the EU, are very important for countries also aspiring to join the bloc, Zgonea told the press. -It is our wish to adjust positions so that we can help the countries that want to be in or already are in the process of joining the EU, he added. Leko and Zgonea concluded that parliamentary cooperation between Croatia and Romania as well as regional cooperation must be intensified, announcing that a parliamentary assembly of the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) would be formed in April 2014.

Leko's visit to Romania, his first since Croatia entered the EU in July, represents the beginning of a successful cooperation of parliamentary democracy, Zgonea said. Leko underlined the two countries had identical positions on the EU's open door policy and other initiatives such as the SEECP, the Danube initiative and the Mediterranean initiative. Our bilateral relations are excellent and we need to use them to advance economic cooperation, the two parliament speakers said. Having that in mind, we want to organise an economic forum in Zagreb next year, with the support of both parliaments, Leko and Zgonea said. The two officials also agreed that national minorities were very important. -The Croatian minorities in Romania and the Romanian minority in Croatia are the best bridge, a live bridge between the two peoples and the two countries, Leko said.

Leko also held talks with the president of the Romanian Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu. Later today, the Croatian parliament speaker is scheduled to hold talks with Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean and the Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea. (Hina/Office of the Speaker)

Author: Hina/Office of the Speaker