SEECP Member States Sign Agreement on Establishment of Regional Cooperation Council

The foreign ministers of the countries of the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) signed Friday an agreement on the creation of a Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) which will assume the best projects from the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe itself expected to be dissolved in 2008, Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin said. RCC is expected to become operational officially as of February 2008, BTA reports.

Secretary-General of the Regional Cooperation Council will be the Croatian diplomat Hido Biscevic, whereas the Secretariat-General will have its headquarters in Sarajevo.

The document was signed during an informal foreign ministerial of SEECP which opened on Friday, hosted by Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin, his Ministry said.

Bulgaria holds the rotating SEECP chairmanship from May 2007 to May 2008.

RCC will also have an office in Brussels to ensure better communication with European institutions.

The meeting started on board the salon carriage of the Corona Express train which once belonged to King Boris III. The train travelled from Sofia to Plovdiv.

Attending the forum are the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Albania, Montenegro, Turkey, Macedonia, as well as Serbia's deputy foreign minister, Romania's secretary of state and Greece's political director.

Special guests at the meeting are Joachim Ruecker of Germany, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Southeast Europe Stability Pact Special Coordinator Erhard Busek, Hido Biscevic, officials of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, representatives from Slovenia and the European Commission.

On the agenda of the meeting are regional issues and the transformation of the regional cooperation in Southeast Europe.

The transformation is related to the implementation of the principle of 'regional identity' requiring from participating countries to assume greater responsibility, including financial,
with regard to regional cooperation in Southeast Europe.

As a country holding the rotating SEECP chairmanship, for Bulgaria it is extremely important to continue the reform in the regional cooperation process and make SEECP the most significant regional organization, Kalfin said. He stressed that the reform will support the countries in their involvement in the process as fully as possible through a number of new opportunities for economic growth, development of infrastructure, political initiatives as well as in the preparation of the entire region for quick joining the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

Kalfin said RCC is expected to be one of the key instruments to ensure coordination among regional and European programmes. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister said that the participants in the meeting discussed a number of important topics with particular stress on the creation of a regional structure for coordination of the activities for managing natural disasters and fires.

The meeting decided to make Bulgaria a centre for parliamentary cooperation in Southeast Europe; other structures with competences in various areas are to be set up in the remaining SEECP countries.

Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said it is very important to keep the impetus of the previous chairmanship and focus the efforts at RCC's work for improving the image of the region in Europe, particularly so in the context of the Euro-Atlantic integration. The ultimate goal is establishing stronger ties with the EU, she said.

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