War In The Balkans: Europe offers states bribe to take refugees

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WEST EUROPEAN governments were warned to move urgently to ease the pressure on Macedonia yesterday amid signs that Skopje, determined to close its own doors to the tide of refugees, bused thousands of Kosovars and dumped them on the Albanian border on Tuesday.

Moving to pre-empt an unseemly row over who will bear the biggest share of Kosovo refugees, the European Commission in Brussels called on member states to first dip into an emergency reserve of pounds 200m to "buy off" Yugoslavia's neighbouring states. Roughly half of the emergency money would be earmarked to help to alleviate the pressure on Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, which are all believed to be in danger of political destabilisation.

The Commission dangled the prospect of cash for Macedonia and a long-term free trade and political co-operation deal going beyond anything yet available and even spoke of offering an association agreement, often the first step to EU membership.