Minister Picula met Mr. Franco Frattini, the MFA of the Italian Republic...

On 28 April 2003, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Tonino Picula, met the MFA of the Italian Republic, Franco Frattini, on the margin of the ministerial conference Interreg III A Italy-Adriatic in Sarajevo. At their first formal bilateral meeting the two ministers confirmed the views of highly developed bilateral relations between both countries.

During its EU presidency in the second half of this year, Italy will render full support to Croatia in its approach to the EU. The closeness of Italy and Croatia, and developed good neighbourly relations, are an additional argument for rendering support. Italy also wants to support Croatia in the reforms launched and in meeting the Copenhagen criteria as soon as possible.
The ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement is already in the parliamentary procedure in Italy. The Government of the Republic of Italy approved the SAA and sent it in the parliamentary procedure about ten days ago.

During the talks, both ministers mentioned the operation of the Joint Croatian-Italian Commission in considering the possibility of including Italian citizens in the denationalisation procedure in the Republic of Croatia, initiated jointly by Minister Picula and Prime Minister Berlusconi in September 2002. This is a legal matter which will be settled at professional level and will not burden the support to Croatia's application for EU membership.

Both sides stressed their will to settle open bilateral issues, like ratification of already signed agreements and signing of adjusted and only just initiated bilateral agreements. Among them are the Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, as well as the Agreement on Practical Confidence Measures for avoiding incidents at sea which would establish cooperation between the police of Croatia and the police of Italy to settle the issue of security on the Adriatic, while declaring protected fishing zone will be settled in accordance with the announced EU policy toward fishing.

Finally, both ministers pointed out that the initiative Interreg III A, whose programme was presented in Sarajevo, was also an important instrument for continuing cooperation between Zagreb and Rome. The Italian side once again emphasised the priority for the countries of Western Balkans to approach the Euro-Atlantic integration during the Italian EU-presidency The summit in Salonika will be a good opportunity for the countries which are not yet candidates to be included in joint actions and programmes together with the countries which are already at the door of the EU.
In principle, both ministers agreed to have another round of bilateral talks before Italy assumes EU-presidency.

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