Oana LungescuSerbia sanctions under review
Saturday, 2 September, 2000
Evian - EU foreign ministers are holding a two-day meeting in the French spa town of Evian to review the sanctions against Serbia.
At their last meeting before the summer break, several ministers expressed strong concern that the sanctions were hurting ordinary people and strengthening the position of President Slobodan Milosevic.
Less than a month before the Serbian general elections, many in the EU believe the measures have proved ineffectual in supporting the democratic opposition.
This informal meeting at the foot of the French Alps is the first opportunity to review the sanctions, which include an oil embargo, a freeze on Yugoslav assets abroad and a visa ban on some 800 Yugoslav officials and business leaders.
Recent attempts to refine the sanctions by allowing Serbian companies with no links to the government to resume business contacts with the European Union have backfired, as those companies became the target of official harrassment.
In a letter to his counterparts, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said many now believed the sanctions were ineffective and even counterproductive.
But, while Austria called this week for the lifting of the oil embargo, the UK and the Netherlands - with US backing - have consistently opposed this.
There is a feeling of perplexity about what to do next, one diplomat said.
In Evian, the foreign ministers will also renew their support for the Middle East peace process while encouraging flexibility about the timing of a planned declaration of a Palestinian state.
No decisions will be taken here, but the ministers plan a wide-ranging discussion about the workings of an enlarged EU and about how to deliver foreign aid faster and with greater efficiency.