Wednesday, March 5, 2008


BRUSSELS, Belgium (March 5,2008) - The European Commission will unveil today proposals aimed at encouraging development in the southeastern Europe.The measures, to be presented by EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, will outline Brussels' "next steps for promoting the European course of the Western Balkans region".

The countries concerned are Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and the genocidal Serbia.

"It is important under present circumstances to maintain the peace and stability of the region," according to a draft of the commission's "communication".

"This can be best achieved by making the EU perspective as visible and tangible as possible for all the peoples of the region," the text said, adding that "the EU is mobilising all available policy instruments" for the southeastern Europe.

Croatia and Macedonia are candidates to join the EU, although Skopje has not been set a date to start negotiations, while Albania and Montenegro have signed trade and aid pacts seen as the first step toward membership.

Bosnia , meanwhile, has initialled the accord,known as a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) and are expected to sign in coming months if they meet the criteria, notably on arresting war crimes suspects.

The commission's new plans include initiatives for promoting the development of civil society, including in the areas of visas, scholarships and community support.

They are also aimed at enhancing economic and social development, and would see a sharp increase in lending to the region by the European Investment Bank.

The EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot is also expected to present a project to extend Europe's main road and rail arteries to the six countries, as well as Kosovo, another official said.

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