Yugoslavia seeking winter aid from EU

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Europe's leaders will be challenged today to agree to an instant package of up to 200m euros (£118m) in emergency assistance for Yugoslavia amid divisions over long-term financial EU aid for a democratic Serbia.

Europe's leaders will be challenged today to agree to an instant package of up to 200m euros (£118m) in emergency assistance for Yugoslavia amid divisions over long-term financial EU aid for a democratic Serbia.

With no agreement on the amount of EU cash for Belgrade, and the new Yugoslavian President, Vojislav Kostunica, expected to arrive at an EU summit tomorrow, Europe's leaders will be asked to make a symbolic gesture.

Germany wants a package of up to 200m euros for "start-up" aid in humanitarian assistance and the support for non-governmental organisations which, it says, could be diverted from existing budgets.

But other countries, including Britain, are unhappy at the prospect of specific pledges before the European Commission has made a comprehensive assessment of Serbia's needs. The first visit from officials to Belgrade began on Wednesday and one diplomat said the countries were working for a political commitment to tackle pressing problems such as the winter fuel crisis, rather than a precise aid figure.

Mr Kostunica's visit is seen as a big symbolic event and the culmination of a successful EU foreign policy, but there is anxiety that the lack of an aid package could raise questions about Europe's commitment.

The Commission proposed 2.3bn euros of aid for 2001-06, but that has not been approved by the EU member states or the European Parliament. Economists allied to Mr Kostunica say £825m is needed to repair the basic infrastructure, including hospitals and bridges destroyed by Nato attacks.

Comments