According to one participating official, continuous contacts among regional leaders and an unhindered dialogue alone can affect past errors and create common future goals.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 18/07/12
Southeast Europe head of states come together at the 2012 Croatia Summit. [Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs]
The host country of Croatia was the centre of attention at the 7th Croatia Summit, a regional event held in Dubrovnik with state presidents, prime ministers, foreign affairs ministers and other high-level officials from Southeast Europe, NATO, the US, and the EU.
Since EU membership is a common aim for all countries in the region, Croatia, which will officially join next year, elaborated on the process for the neighbouring country aspirants during the conference, which was July 7th and 8th.
"We signed or will sign the co-operation agreement for Euro-Atlantic integration with the countries in the region. It's already known that we provided them with the translation of the European acquis. We will work with countries in the region on joint cross border projects," Vesna Pusic, Croatian foreign affairs minister, told SETimes.
The main topics at the summit were the EU perspective as the driving force for social and political changes, state-building in post-conflict societies, political and security challenges, partnership and institution-building.
According to Dubrovnik summit attendees from several countries, informal conversations on the common EU perspective as the basis for solid regional relations were the highlights of the summit.
Montenegro representatives at the summit played an important role since the country received a candidate status a few weeks ago. Montenegro Prime Minister Igor Luksic said the summit is a great opportunity for bilateral talks on his country's EU accession, which he said is a regionally important decision.
Aleksandar Dzombic, prime minister of Republika Srpska (RS), also took part in the summit. He said that continuous contacts among regional leaders are important, and that unhindered dialogue alone can affect eventual past errors and create common future goals. One of these goals is certainly EU accession and exchange of experience for the common regional good.
"I am convinced that the region, after joining the EU, will become a significant factor of the integrated European market. In order to achieve this we have to work together to strengthen our economy and direct our attention to building the infrastructure in the whole region," Dzombic told SETimes.
Although Serbia is well known for its organisation of regional leader meetings, its current officials did not arrive to the Dubrovnik event since Kosovo officials were in attendance. But, the country's former president and Democratic Party leader, Boris Tadic, arrived as a personal guest of Croatia's Prime Minister Zoran Milovanovic.
According to Ognjen Pribicevic, an associate at the Serbian Social Sciences Institute and former Serbia's ambassador in Germany, events like the Croatia summit are important for good regional relations, especially after the past conflicts.
"This is, firstly, important for Serbia because of the role it had in the past with its authoritarian Milosevic regime. Serbian delegation should participate especially because Kosovo is not anywhere represented without an explanation," Pribicevic told SETimes.
At the summit Tadic notably shook hands with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, an action that drew debate throughout Kosovo and Serbia. Pribicevic said the gesture was long overdue.
"This contact will facilitate interaction between Serbia and Kosovo officials, possibly improving their relations," Pribicevic said.