Croatian, Slovak, Bulgarian, and Swiss Ambassadors to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) presented credentials to ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh on December 2, affirming their Governments’ commitments to closer ties with the bloc.

During separate meetings at the bloc’s headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Minh said the diplomats can play an important role in further deepening cooperation between ASEAN and the European countries bilaterally and in the framework of the ASEAN-European Union (EU) Dialogue and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

The ASEAN leader and the ambassadors exchanged views on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual concern, including recent developments in ASEAN and the Asian region, the progress of the ASEAN Community building and integration efforts.

He also expressed his hope that ASEAN and the countries will explore potential areas for practical, effective and mutually beneficiary cooperation.

Croatian Ambassador Dražen Margeta said that his country, as a commercial and service hub in Europe with deep seaport facilities, can help to bolster trade between the two regions.

Slovak Ambassador Michal Slivovič and Bulgarian Ambassador Sergey Michev spoke highly of ASEAN’s central role in the region and voiced their wish for further collaboration, particularly in investment and trade, between ASEAN and their countries as well as between the two blocs.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Yvonne Baumann renewed the Swiss Government’s commitment to pursuing closer partnership with ASEAN, including in economy, disaster risk reduction, and climate change prevention.

She said she will play an active role in promoting bilateral relations, including through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which is composed of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Also on December 2, the second ASEAN-New Zealand Joint Cooperation Committee (ANZJCC) Meeting convened in Jakarta during which both sides agreed to accelerate the progress of the Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-New Zealand Comprehensive Partnership for the 2010-2015 period.

They also identified potential areas for the next Plan of Action between 2016 and 2020, including counter terrorism and extremism, small-and-medium enterprises development, connectivity, education and vocational training, geothermal and renewable energy, food security, agricultural development, and environment and climate change, among others.

New Zealand reaffirmed its pledge to continue support for the ASEAN Community building efforts beyond 2015, as well as for the association’s central role in regional mechanisms.

The meeting also discussed preparations for the forthcoming ASEAN-New Zealand Commemorative Summit to mark the 40th anniversary of their bilateral relations in Malaysia in 2015.-VNA