Representatives of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia say they will accelerate their efforts to become members of NATO and the European Union.
At a meeting in Skopje the three countries pledged to cooperate more closely in their efforts to join NATO and the European Union. The meeting was chaired by the Macedonia's defense minister, Vlado Buckovski.
Macedonia, Albania and Croatia have been strong supporters of the U.S. military action in Iraq and have been seeking to strengthen their ties with the United States.
The three, along with the United States, on May 4 signed the U.S.-Adriatic charter at a meeting of their foreign ministers in Albania.
Albania's ambassador to Macedonia, Vladimir Prela, said while the Adriatic charter is focused on NATO, Albania is equally determined to join the European Union. "We want to be part of this Euro-Atlantic reality. And this is for me the most important thing," said Ambassador Prela, who played down the significance of differences over Iraq between the United States and some European countries. He also expressed hope that Serbia and Montenegro would not be left out of an expanding European Union and NATO.
Participants were generally encouraged by the outcome of the EU summit on June 21 in Greece, where the EU leaders said that western Balkan countries would one day become members.
But Croatian ambassador to Skopje, Aleksandar Milosevic, says he is disappointed with the amount of EU development assistance being offered to the Balkans. "I am not very satisfied with the financial agenda, you know. Because this area needs considerable [financial] support," he said.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva has also been critical of the European Union. Earlier this week, she expressed disappointment with the EU summit. She said the countries of the western Balkans failed to obtain candidate status, failed to obtain a firm timetable for integration, and failed to win a promise of greatly increased development assistance.