Monday, April 11, 2005

EU Gives 272.5 Mln Euro in Aid to Serbia-Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia

The European Commission said on Monday it approved the first package of financial support for the Western Balkans, allocating 272.5 million euro in aid to Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia.

Serbia and Montenegro, which expect Brussels to unveil on Tuesday a key report on their chances to establish closer ties with the EU that could lead to membership, will get 184 million euro ($238.4 million) in aid under the EU Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation (CARDS) Programme.

The package also envisages 54 million euro in aid to the United Nations-run southern Serbian province of Kosovo and 34.5 million euro for Macedonia, the Commission said on its website.

The European Commission is adopt on Tuesday a feasibility report on Serbia and Montenegro's chances to join the EU at a later stage. A positive decision of the commission will mean that Serbia and Montenegro, the loose union that replaced rump Yugoslavia two years ago, and the EU can start talks on concluding a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).

An SAA would give Serbia and Montenegro preferential access to the common European market and will outline the steps which the two nations would have to take in order to join the EU.

The efforts of Serbia and Montenegro to build closer relations with the 25-nation bloc might be spoiled if the commission rules that the country's has failed to co-operate fully with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Croatia's failure to co-operate fully with the tribunal delayed the start of that country's membership talks with the EU last month. Insufficient co-operation with The Hague is also a major obstacle for Bosnia.

Most analysts expect Serbia and Montenegro to get a positive report on Thursday, after EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said there has been significant progress in co-operation with the war crimes court. The Serbian government has convinced 11 Serb or Bosnian Serb military officials indicted by the court to surrender to the tribunal since the beginning of the year.

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