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Concerns over stability in the region

The latest tragic event in Belgrade will not affect Croatia's process of drawing closer to the European Union, Chris Patten, European commissioner for foreign affairs, said after talks with Prime Minister Ivica Racan on Thursday.

Patten told reporters that EU foreign ministers would most probably in April ask the European Commission to give an opinion on Croatia's application for the EU. He voiced hope that after that he would be able to come to Zagreb with a positive response. Racan added that his talks with Patten had revolved around Croatia's candidacy for EU membership, and said Zagreb enjoyed Paten's support to those bids.

Croatia is aware of obligations it has to meet on the road towards the EU, including the resolution of contentious issues such as the return of refugees, privatisation and co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal. Those are conditions which Croatia has set to itself so that it could develop democracy, Racan told reporters.

He said the government was concerned about possible harmful implications the assassination of Serbian Premier Koran Djindjic could have on the process of democratisation in Serbia and on stability in the region. "Croatia would like to do all it can to enhance co-operation with neighbours and contribute to stability in the region," Racan said.

(NewsBase 14.iii.03)

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