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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-11-20

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Athens outlines western Balkans proposal

  • [01] Athens outlines western Balkans proposal

    The Greek foreign ministry on Tuesday outlined details of Athens' proposal for giving a new impetus to the progress of the western Balkans towards Europe, which was presented by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at an EU General Affairs Council the previous day.

    According to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the Greek proposal aims to revive the rate of reforms in the region, which has recently been flagging, and outlines specific steps and actions that must be taken by all sides to confirm the region's European prospects and to support efforts for its stabilisation and growth.

    "A clear accession policy for the countries of the region is the most important and perhaps the most effective tool in order for these countries to overcome political, social and economic weaknesses and challenges and converge with the rest of Europe," Koumoutsakos said, explaining Athens' position.

    He also noted the need for measures that had an impact on the lives of people in the area.

    "In order to have, through the European perspective, the results that we desire we must combine this with measures that make it tangible to the inhabitants of this area, that meet their basic needs and their main demands," he said.

    He noted that the EU had already recognised the importance visa liberalisation for the people and governments of the western Balkans and had promised to help these countries so that step could be taken.

    "Following up on the visa facilitation agreements we signed this year, the EU must now offer these countries a 'road map' that will finally lead to visa liberalisation, a series of specific and measurable conditions and an outline of the necessary steps with an indicative time frame," he added.

    Also among measures proposed by Athens is the immediate signature of a Stability and Association pact with Serbia, followed by one with Bosnia-Herzegovina as soon as possible. He denied that the Greek proposal was "overlooking" outstanding problems linked to Serbia's refusal to hand over fugitives wanted as war criminals, pointing out that the EU had already started to resume the stabilisation and association process with Serbia which had been "frozen" for some time.

    Serbia and the other countries that have signed Stability and Association Pacts but are not candidates should then be encourage to apply, Greece believes, suggesting that the European Commission present 'opinions' on their applications in the autumn of 2008 so that the European Council could decide on whether to give them candidate status in December 2008.

    Koumoutsakos said that the date for the start of accession negotiations with these countries could then be decided at a later stage, based on their progress in fulfilling specific criteria set by the EU, and that this should also determine the speed of the accession process once talks began.

    Other Greek suggestions are to direct additional funds to this region from the EU budget through "broad use of the principle of flexibility," in order to meet EU priorities in this sensitive region at a critical time.

    Koumoutsakos said that the Greek initiative had highlighted the leading role that the EU has played in the Balkans over past years, while noting that "there are now visible signs of flagging, signs that demonstrate that the beneficial effect of our policies is becoming weaker". He pointed out that according to the latest European Commission progress reports for the area, the overall process of reforms in the region had slowed down in some countries, while in others the reforms were not yet permanent.

    He also stressed that the situation in Kosovo demanded substantial involvement by the EU, both for Kosovo and the wider region of the western Balkans, in order to restrict the possible danger to regional security.

    Proposal well received by EU partners, Koumoutsakos reports

    Asked how the Greek proposal had been received by its EU partners, Koumoutsakos said there had been a positive reception from both European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn and the Portuguese presidency of the Community, which suggested that it be discussed at the next European Council in December.

    Regarding the timing of the proposal, he said this was prompted by developments in the region that created uncertainty and mobility, especially concerns related to the status of Kosovo. Asked what effect this might have on developments in Serbia with respect to Kosovo, he stressed that there "neither a direct nor indirect connection".

    "We have taken into account the situation in the region. The proposal is the result of concern about the Balkans, which we believe must at this time receive a specific, positive and practical message from the EU," he added.

    He also denied that the proposal might be a way to "sugar the pill" for Belgrade so that it might accept independence for Kosovo.

    According to Koumoutsakos, the EU should be trying to avoid allowing the region to slide back into a state of "unproductive introversion, without tangible European hopes and prospects".

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Koumoutsakos.

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