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Pahor and Kosor Agree to Enter Foreign Markets Together (adds)

Opatija, 23 October (STA) - Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor agreed as they met in Lovran on Saturday that Slovenia and Croatia should enhance economic cooperation and enter third markets together. They also stressed that the open issues on succession to former Yugoslavia should be tackled in a package.

A Slovenian-Croatian business commission should put forward proposals for a joint entrance to third markets in six months, the prime ministers said after today's meeting in the small Croatian seaside resort near Rijeka.

Pahor said the meeting was all about economic cooperation and highlighted the joint entrance to the markets of third countries as an opportunity to boost economic growth.

According to him, the prime ministers decided for the move because the planned deals require certain capital which the two countries could provide more easily if they joined forces.

The countries will also be presented together at the 2012 Expo in South Korea. This is not merely a move to minimise the costs, but a "symbolic gesture of friendship between two nations who wish this friendship to further enhance", he noted.

Pahor and Kosor decided to set up a mixed commission today to look into the possibility of joint protection of air space. Slovenia and Croatia, which are both NATO members, could thus reduce their costs and boost security, Pahor said.

"However, we must approach this carefully, with every ambition to reach an agreement," the Slovenian prime minister added.

Kosor pointed out at the occasion that Pahor had reaffirmed Slovenia's support to Croatia's EU accession. She said Croatia was expected to close three chapters in the accession negotiations with the EU at the next intergovernmental conference on 5 November. She reiterated that Croatia had already opened all chapters and closed most of them.

Turning to the Western Balkans, the pair underlined the importance of the Brdo Process, an initiative they launched together in March to strengthen cooperation in the region. Pahor announced that Serbia would join the initiative at the next meeting of justice ministers.

Not much was however said at the press conference about the former Yugoslavia's succession issues. Pahor merely said that "a window of opportunity" has emerged for these issues, not only the financial part but also the part concerning diplomatic and consular properties, could be resolved in a package.

A week ago, Croatia agreed to take the unresolved issue of missing savings at the defunct Zagreb LB bank to the Basel Bank for International Settlements (BIS). The return to negotiations was a long-held Slovenian position in the dispute, whereas Croatia had insisted it was a bilateral issue since it concerns the commercial relationship between a bank and its savers.

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