Franco Frattini: 'Our plan to bring irreversible stability to the Balkans'

From a speech by the Italian foreign minister at The Royal Institute of International Affairs in London

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Italy has a clear interest at stake in the successful stabilisation of the Balkans. We are, therefore, very pleased with the remarkable progress which has been made in the past few years along the path to stabilisation

Italy has a clear interest at stake in the successful stabilisation of the Balkans. We are, therefore, very pleased with the remarkable progress which has been made in the past few years along the path to stabilisation. The most telling example is the recent accession of Slovenia to the European Union, following a decade of bloody and seemingly intractable conflicts, triggered by the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Nobody can doubt the Italian government's resolve to work towards making the Balkans an area of peace, freedom, stability and prosperity. It is comforting that our European partners have come round to sharing our view.

This was also one of the guiding principles for the Italian presidency of the European Union, when political dialogue between the European institutions and the countries of the Western Balkans experienced significant intensification.

Italy has supported the aspirations of Croatia to be integrated into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and welcomes the decision of the recent European Council to grant Croatia candidate country status.

We stand ready to offer similar support to any other countries which are able to take the necessary steps. This principle should apply to Albania, as well as to Serbia and Montenegro. These countries should not be left alone in their modernisation efforts. Our aim is to make progress in the Balkans irreversible. This is not going to be easy. But, six or seven years ago, very few people would have thought lasting peace would ever become a realistic prospect for these troubled countries.

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