“The membership of Southeast European countries in the European Union is our common strategic interest and has no alternative,” said Defense Minister Mario Banožić at a joint meeting of Central European Defense Cooperation (CEDC) and Southeast European defense ministers, said the Ministry of Defense on Wednesday.
Croatia is chairing the CEDC this year and it was hosted by Croatia's minister of defense.
The CEDC initiative brings together Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Defense of Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia, Klaudia Tanner, Jaroslav Naď and Matej Tonin, the Czech Deputy Minister of Defense Jan Havranek and the Secretary of State of the Hungarian Ministry of Defense Istvan Szabo.
The meeting was also attended by the Ministers of Defense of Southeast Europe - Ministers of Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Serbia, Niko Peleshi, Olivera Injac, Armend Mehaj, Radmila Shekerinska Jankovska, Nebojša Stefanović and Deputy Minister of Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mirko Okolić.
At the first working session, ministers and senior officials discussed strengthening partnerships with Southeast European countries, all with the aim of speeding up Euro-Atlantic processes, said the statement.
“The membership of the countries of Southeast Europe in the European Union is our common strategic interest which has no and must not have an alternative. In order to speed up this path, I call on you to continue the reform process, in which we are ready to provide you with all kinds of support. It is important for the European Union to be a credible partner in the enlargement process that will value individual efforts and achievements,” said Banožić.
Banožić emphasized that growing hybrid influences, including the growing incidence of fake news and misinformation, call for greater co-operation between Central and Southeast European countries to ensure long-term stability, security and progress on Euro-Atlantic integration.
This year, two workshops were held on the topic 'Suppression of fake news and disinformation campaigns'. The workshops enabled the establishment of a broader regional dialogue in the field of combating the spread of misinformation and false news, as well as the results of an expert workshop on military mobility, said the statement.
Banožić welcomed the continuation of regional cooperation in crisis management, and the conclusions of the joint CEDC table-top training activity 'COOPSEC 21' held in the year of the Croatian presidency on the topic of pandemics and natural disasters, will contribute to this.
The topic of the second working session was the finalization of the Strategic Compass, a document aimed at providing clear strategic policy guidelines on the EU's position in the field of security and defense and strengthening the EU's role as a global security provider.
The defense ministers adopted a joint declaration expressing strong support for continued co-operation in all areas discussed, said the statement.
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