Mch 10, 2000Balkan ministers criticise progress of Stability Pact
KORCA - Foreign ministers of Albania, Greece and Macedonia expressed concern on Thursday over the lack of progress in the Stability Pact for the Balkans.
The ministers, Paskal Milo, Georges Papandreou and Aleksandar Dimitrov, told a press conference after two days of talks in the southwestern Macedonian town of Ohrid, and the southeastern Albanian town of Korca, that they discussed cooperation within the Stability Pact and the security challenges the countries in the region face.
The Balkan Stability Pact was drawn up last year to provide a framework for development aid to countries bordering Yugoslavia whose already weak economies suffered during NATOs air war against Slobodan Milosevics Yugoslav regime and the continuing embargo on trade with his country.
Albania and Macedonia said they expected concrete help from the West under the Stability Pact for the Balkans and Greece, a European Union member, said it supported both its neighbours.
Papandreou said that Greece wanted to help its neighbours develop economically so that they would be ready to become fully integrated in Europe.
He said that Greece expected help for Macedonia and Albania from the funding conference in Brussels, adding that Greece wanted to assist these two countries integration into the European family.
The three ministers also reviewed possibilities to define a common strategy to fight crime and corruption, on regional cross-border cooperation and protection of environment.
Albanian Foreign Minister said that all three countries stood to benefit from peace and security in the region and that their governments were determined to act together to withstand any threats to this.
"We have a strong will to cooperate with each other and to overcome all the misunderstandings and all the attacks from the people who do not like cooperation, stability, and peace in our region," Milo said.
"We have a common future with which we have to come to terms together."
The foreign ministers of Macedonia, Greece and Albania said that they had been united in their desire to begin a new chapter in regional cooperation and to promote the further integration of the Balkans within Europe as a whole.
Papandreou said that the three countries intend to institutionalize their trilateral meetings and Greece would support the bilateral and Balkan cooperation.
Rising Tension in Kosovo Worries Ministers
The ministers expressed concern on Thursday about rising tension in Kosovo province. They said in a joint statement after their two days of meetings in Macedonian and Albanian bordering towns that recent incidents in Mitrovica in northern Kosovo and in southern Serbia were a serious threat not only to neighbouring Macedonia but also to the whole of southeast Europe.
The three Balkan nations condemned violence and extremism of any side in the region.
Milo said Greece and Macedonia were worried ethnic Albanian groups in southern Serbia were trying to create a situation similar to that in Kosovo in 1998.
He said that acts contrary to the spirit of dialogue in the volatile region were to be condemned, but added that Albanian civilians in southern Serbia were acting in self-defence because they feared mass expulsion.
"We think the tensions that have been created there stem from the policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing that the Belgrade authorities have pursued for a long time," he told reporters.
Milo said his government had no contact with the shadowy Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedje, Bujanovac, a possible offshoot of the officially disbanded KLA.
"We do not support extremism no matter what side it comes from," he said.