Balkan states are seeking for more cooperation on their common goal of joining the European Union in a summit in Slovenia despite Serbia's refusal to attend over Kosovo participation.
The conference on Saturday, organised by Slovenia and Croatia, hoped to boost cooperation and rekindle enthusiasm for the EU.
Serbia, the biggest country in the region, refused to attend unless its former province of Kosovo came as a U.N.-run protectorate, which Pristina refused.
Kosovo's Albanian majority backed by the Western countries declared independence in 2008 nine years after Serbia moved ethnic cleansing in a 1998-1999 war. Nato stopped the Serbian forces in a 78-day bombing.
Kosovo is recognized as an independent state by 60 countries from mostly European Union and also Muslim countries around world such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia.
But Serbia has vowed never to recognise Kosovo.
The conference brought seven prime ministers from the region to a picturesque presidential palace at the foot of the Alps. Participants said the meeting was a step in the right direction, even without Serbia.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele told reporters upon arrival: "This conference will be a step in the right direction that the countries understand it is for the benefit of them to work together."
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said the Balkan's youngest country's aim was "cooperation, not boycott".
"This is a very good opportunity for every leader of our countries to present their vision for peace, stability, regional cooperation and EU integration," he said.
Almost 20 years after the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia, Slovenia is the only former Yugoslav state to join the EU in 2004.
Croatia hopes to follow in 2012 while others have a long way to go. All of them have to implement political and economic reforms, while Serbia also has to cooperate with the U.N. war crimes tribunal and show a more constructive stance on Kosovo.
"It is regrettable that (Serbian President) Mr Tadic is not here...This is a very important meeting on regional cooperation. It's substantial for all of us who aspire to an EU future and integration," Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.
Although the nationalism that fuelled ethnic wars at the break-up of Yugoslavia has eased, many conflicts in the region remain as most states continue to have bilateral border and economic problems.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Mart 2010, 18:51