BBC - Europe to review YU sanctions

Monday, 6 December, 1999, 10:35 GMT

The EU abandoned a delivery of oil to Serbian towns last week

By central Europe reporter Nick Thorpe

European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday with a review of existing sanctions against Yugoslavia high on their agenda.

Some member countries increasingly support the Yugoslav opposition view that the existing blanket sanctions only help the present government stay in power.

They will be pressing for the lifting of a flight-ban to Yugoslavia, and for a visa ban which prevents senior officials from travelling within Europe to be extended.

Oil embargo

The foreign ministers will hear two main arguments in favour of easing the sanctions policy.

The first is that the oil embargo is not working because of the success of smugglers, who work with the tacit approval of the government.

Large quantities are believed to cross into Yugoslavia from Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity in Bosnia. More shipments arrive from other neighbouring countries.

The EU's energy for democracy programme will also be reviewed. The first pilot project, of 14 lorries of heating oil bound for opposition-held towns, was abandoned last Friday.

Other convoys are expected soon, despite scathing Yugoslav government criticism.

Targeted sanctions

The other argument in favour of easing sanctions is that they hurt the population more than the government.

Instead, most member countries want targeted sanctions, like the existing visa ban, to be further tightened.

The list contains the names of about 300 top officials who are not allowed to travel anywhere in Europe and there are some proposals to almost double it.

Opposition leaders who travel frequently abroad, and are accused by the pro-government media of being traitors, argue for gentler sanctions, pegged to the holding of free and fair elections next year.

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