More action needed on Balkans: Weizsaecker

21st April 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 April 2005, BERLIN - Speaking as a member of the International Commission on the Balkans, former German president Richard von Weizsäcker said he knew of no other region in the world where so much money had been spent with so little results.

21 April 2005

BERLIN - Speaking as a member of the International Commission on the Balkans, former German president Richard von Weizsäcker said he knew of no other region in the world where so much money had been spent with so little results.

The members of the International Commission on the Balkans called on the EU to step up efforts at helping to ensure the Balkan countries' integration in Western Europe through enlargement of the 25-member bloc.

The commission made the announcement in Berlin on Thursday following the release earlier this week of their report on the western Balkans, namely Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia.

The top-level panel of senior politicians and experts called for urgent moves to encourage private money to flow into the troubled region and set out a target date of 2014 for the European Union to expand to take in the Balkans.

"Alternatively", the commission concludes in its 65-page report, "the EU runs the risk of allowing a black hole to emerge on the European periphery that could inflict considerable harm on the European project."

With the threat of a dividing line emerging between the western and eastern Balkans, the commission members stressed the need for urgent steps to be taken to draw in private funds in the region.

"Private money is the key," said Kemel Dervis, a member of the Turkish parliament and a member of the Balkans commission.

"For that you need utilities and infrastructure," he said, with other members of the commission also expressing surprise that no complete audit had ever been conducted to establish how much money the international community has poured into the region.

The decision by the commission - chaired by former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato - to select 2014 was not accidental as it would mark the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which helped to spark World War One.

"2014 is the year and Sarajevo is the place where the European Union can proudly announce the arrival of the European century," the commission said in its report.

Committee member Francois Heisbourg however insisted: "Time is not of the essence" saying the date the commission had selected was "an operational aim".

Earlier this month, the European Commission moved to pave the way for Serbia and Montenegro eventually joining the EU.

But ten years after the Dayton peace accord was signed and five years after the fall of the Milosevic regime in Belgrade, the Balkans commission is damning about the progress that has been made towards establishing functioning societies in the Balkans.

"I know of no other region in the world where so much money has been spent with so little results," said commission member and former German president Richard von Weizsäcker, speaking to reporters in Berlin.

"The real choice the EU is facing in the Balkans is: enlargement or empire," the commission report said.

Members of the commission appeared particularly alarmed about developments in Kosovo, from the constant blackouts and power shortages through to the treatment of the Serbian minority.

"It is unacceptable in Europe today to see soldiers guarding a few dozen Serbs who are unable to leave their village," said Heisbourg.

The release of the commission's report comes almost 12 months after eight central and eastern European states - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia - were among ten nations formally to join the EU.

The prospects of Bulgaria, Romania and possibly Croatia becoming EU member states by the end of the decade are also likely to add to the pressure on Brussels to draw up an action plan so as to help lay the groundwork for the west Balkan states to sign up.

While Croatia's timetable has been thrown into doubt as a result of Brussels' demands that it also cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, both Romania and Bulgaria are to sign accession treaties next week that will place them on course to become the EU's 26th and 27th members on 1 January 2007.

"This should demonstrate that it can be done," said Heisbourg.

But Ivan Krastev, the commission's managing director, warned that failure to ensure that the nations lining up for the next wave of EU membership make it into the Brussels club would create uncertainty and have a destabilising effect on the Balkans region.

DPA

Subject: German news

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