At a meeting on Monday, the Council of Ministers urged Serbia and Montenegro to make new
constitutional and democratic arrangements within a federal framework.
The foreign ministers of the 15 member states met in Brussels to discuss a number of issues, one being the developments in the western Balkans. They reiterated their support for the new Yugoslav president and government there. Hopes for increasing stability in the region were stronger than ever.
In this respect, the recent actions of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo were condemned and President Vojislav Koštunica's commitment to the late UN regulations was strongly supported. The Council, however, hoped that political prisoners will soon be released and that further reforms will be undertaken so that democratic principles in Yugoslavia are fostered.
However, one of the most controversial conclusions of the meeting was the EU's support for a Yugoslav federation. The Council urged Belgrade and Podgorica to agree on an open democratic negotiation that would lead to the establishment of new constitutional relations within the Yugoslav federation. Any unilateral action should be avoided, the Council stressed.
Montenegro's Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac obviously did not support the EU position. He said that by taking Serbia's side, the union endangered Serbia-Montenegro relations rather than facilitating them.
On the other hand, the EU stand was informed by an overall concern with stability in Yugoslavia and the Balkans as a whole, even in the event that Montenegro would have to pay the price.
Candidates scolded over state aid
Accession states will not become EU members before they cut down on state subsidies for industry, Competition Commissioner Mario Monti warned.
Currently, state aid for failing industries ranges from 0.5 to 4.3 percent of the GDP in candidate countries while the EU average is 1.2 percent. In addition, some governments are trying to attract foreign investment by offering tax breaks. This would have to change once candidates get into the EU, Commissioner Monti pointed out. However some countries, especially those in Southeast Europe, are not expected to join the EU within the near five years. Thus, tax breaks can still be alluring for foreign investors in parts of the former Eastern Bloc.
Both of these aspects of state-level competition were pointed out by Mr Monti because they are seen as "stealing" foreign investment away from EU countries. Negotiations on competition combined with the free movement of goods, capital and labour are seen as some of the most problematic and dangerous aspects of enlargement precisely because they seem to be undermining the economic life of the EU.
An effective and competitive regime is underlying some of the Copenhagen criteria. Hence, annual conferences on competition are held with accession states. There they are encouraged to enforce effective laws of competition, especially with regards to state aid and liberalisation.
Lastly, competition laws such as those on state subsidies for industry are, to a considerable degree, informed by fears in the EU that enlargement will undermine some of the key industries of member states, such as the textile industry and the coal and steel complex, for example.
KFOR's efforts eroded
British soldiers were shot at by Kosovo Albanians on the southern border of Serbia on Thursday. They were part of the KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The NATO-led troops were there to prevent any crossing of men and weaponry to and from the province. Nobody was hurt in the short exchange of shots between the patrol from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment and a group of ten armed men, trying to enter Kosovo from Serbia.
Ethnic Albanian guerillas say they are preparing for a new assault. Leaders of the militia state that nearly 600 volunteers have already been trained to fight. According to American estimates, the number of the trainees is four to five times greater than claimed.
The continuous existence of the training camp, situated near the Kosovo-Macedonian border, has greatly undermined KFOR's attempts to stop the rebel movement. The success of the gunmen to penetrate the military exclusion zone in Serbia is disturbing for KFOR.
A transfer of KFOR command authorities has been taking place since 18 January. The new command arrangements are being transformed from Supreme Allied Headquarters Europe (SHAPE) to Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH), based in Naples.
Cancer detected in Serbian troops
Despite efforts by the Yugoslav army to play down the effects of depleted uranium (DU) munitions used by NATO in its war in Kosovo, cases of cancer among Serbian troops were brought forward this week. Two Serbian soldiers, who had served in Urosevac in central Kosovo, one of the 112 sites where NATO verified DU shells had been used by US aircraft, were diagnosed with cancerous tumours in the eyes by Serbian doctors.
A report in the Belgrade weekly tabloid, Nedeljni Telegraf, quoted in the The Guardian on Monday, reveals the leukemia-related deaths of three officers from the Pristina Corps in recent months and states that ten other soldiers are ill with the disease, four of them terminally.
These disclosures were followed by a second meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Depleted Uranium (CDU) on 23 January at NATO Headquarters. The meeting was attended by an increased number of participants, including the Balkan countries (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in particular) and a variety of international governmental and non-governmental organisations.
The Committee has attempted to demonstrate NATO's willingness to cooperate on an issue of recent concern. It concluded, once again, that there is no sufficient evidence suggesting the link between DU and cancer among Kosovo veterans.
Romanian PM visits NATO HQ
NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson met with Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nãstase at NATO Headquarters on 24 January. The two men discussed the possibility of a future NATO membership of Romania, and the necessary preparations. Defence reform and the initial steps to downsize and reform the armed forces were also included in the talks.
Ivana Gogova and Branimira Radoslavova,
26 January 2001
NATO Official Homepage
General Affairs Council Meeting
Joint Press Release on the annual Competition Conference in Tallinn- 26/09/00
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