Croatian diplomat to lead new Regional Co-operation Council

120.jpgDuring the Southeastern Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP) meeting in Zagreb earlier this month, regional foreign ministers tapped Croatian Deputy Foreign Minister Hido Biscevic as the first secretary-general of the new Regional Co-operation Council (RCC) that will be based in Sarajevo.

In a move that aims to ensure regional advancement towards the European accession process, the Southeastern European states agreed last year to establish and take ownership of the RCC. The Council, which will become operational in 2008, will gradually assume the responsibilities of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe and the SEECP.

RCC members are regional countries that share the same Euro-Atlantic ambitions, and want to strengthen regional co-operation, a precondition for joining the EU.

“The region has gradually moved way beyond the legacy of suspicion and instability and has managed to achieve substantial progress. We are all convinced now that regional co-operation is not an alternative to European integration, but a substantial ingredient of it — and a political and economic imperative,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said at the May 10th meeting.

Biscevic, 54, has been a professional diplomat since 1992. He has been Croatia’s ambassador in Turkey and Russia and has served as assistant to the foreign minister since 2002. Biscevic will continue his work in the Foreign Ministry until next year, when he will formally take over the RCC duties.

Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact Erhard Busek said that the countries of the region “must fill the RCC with life, to make it a success story and show that Southeastern Europe is a different region now than it was in the 1990s. Success will require commitment of the individual countries and of the whole region, acting together to present its specific targets and interests.”

By establishing the RCC — which will be funded by the European Commission — members now must show that they are ready and willing to co-operate together, without international community involvement. The Council will operate as a connector between countries of the region and the wider international donor community. The group will represent the specific regional interests: it will facilitate regional co-operation and support the member’s Euro-Atlantic integration processes.

Until February 2008, when the formal handover from the Stability Pact to the RCC will take place, Biscevic and Busek will work together to ensure that the Stability Pact’s achievements are preserved and that the transition to the new framework is as smooth as possible.

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