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Southeast European Times: Croatia, Montenegro seek to boost ties

Published date: 01.02.2007 12:08 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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By Nedjeljko Rudovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica 31/01/07

Efforts to improve ties and boost economic co-operation were the focus of a January 12th visit to Montenegro by a Croatian delegation headed by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. Though memories of the volatile past are fresh, the desire to work for a common European future is even stronger.

"Relations between Croatia and Montenegro should overcome the recent events between the two countries, which we have difficulty forgetting but cannot live in," Sanader said.

"Though Croatia successfully defended its territory, it is also well known that a great majority of Montenegrins criticised the aggression of Montenegrin soldiers in Croatia in the 1990s," he said. "Moreover, the Croatian government is fully prepared to develop co-operation, good neighbourly policies, mutual respect and co-operation towards lasting peace in this part of Europe."

During the visit, Sanader met with Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic, President Filip Vujanovic and Parliament Speaker Ranko Krivokapic. He also participated in the opening of a Croatian embassy in Podgorica.

In the early 1990s, as part of the former Yugoslav army and under the strong influence of the Milosevic government in Serbia, Montenegrin soldiers took part in the bombing of Dubrovnik, a historic city under UNESCO protection. In 2001, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic apologised to all Croatian citizens for the attacks.

Croatian President Stipe Mesic has visited Montenegro on several occasions in the last three years. However, Sanader's trip this month was the first by a Croatian prime minister since Croatia declared independence in 1992.

About 40 Croatian businessmen joined the delegation to Montenegro. They signed an agreement with their Montenegrin counterparts on enhanced economic co-operation. Construction of an Adriatic-Ionian highway was identified as the most important joint project between the countries, one that will greatly improve transit.

Sanader pointed out the need for Croatian and Montenegrin joint business ventures, especially in foreign tenders, while the Montenegrin side emphasised tourism, energy, infrastructure, wood industry, banking, and water management as possible areas of co-operation.

There are few outstanding issues affecting ties. However, Croatia and Montenegro have not yet defined their sea border.

Croatia will give Montenegro its full support on the path towards EU integration, Sanader said.

"European integration is certainly the best response to a European past burdened with conflicts, clashes, wars, and genocide. If Europe wishes to avoid a future as was our past in the Balkans, European unity and integration has no alternative," he added.