Budapest Sun
35 Serbian mayors plead their case

Eszter Balázs

Jun. 08, 2000

Better targeted donations will be sent to Serbian towns and villages following a conference in Budapest involving the mayors of 35 Serbian settlements.

The conference was one of the last events organized by Hungary as a co-chair of Working Table 1 of the Southeast European Stability Pact. Details about the exact agreements were rather slim as none of the Serbian mayors wanted to be named by the press, nor did the Working Table want to disclose any specific decisions.

"The mayors chose not to tell this themselves at the press conference. They are in opposition in Serbia," Klára Breuer, head of the Human and Minority Rights Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.

Representatives of the European Commission, the United States, Germany and Hungary decided to establish an information service to be co-ordinated in Hungary which would enable the more effective channeling of aid to areas which are in opposition to the Milosevic regime.

"Without the stability of Yugoslavia, stability does not exist in southeastern Europe. That is why we need to assist the Serbian opposition so that the upcoming elections can be truly democratic," said Breuer.

She said the mayors were asking for small projects rather than humanitarian aid supplies. They would also like to know where the transports arrive from in order to explain to the population that the Western countries are doing something for Serbia.

"It must be made clear to the people that we support the democratic change," said Thomas Countryman, head of the Southeast European Issues Department at the State Department in the United States. "We must follow closely what the mayors said and they want small but beneficial projects to contribute to raising living standards."

Breuer said the mayors were asking on behalf of small settlements as well as those isolated villages where the propaganda of the Milosevic regime was more effective.

Michael Schäfer, department head at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Germany would contribute DM30-35 million for the assistance of the democratic forces in Serbia.

Countyman said that as the Serbian mayors asked for the projects not to be disclosed the meeting would not mention any of the planned actions.

Headquartered in Brussels, the Southeastern European Stability Pact was formed about a year ago to assist the economic reconstruction and democratization of the southeastern region. For six months since the beginning of the year, Hungary has been the co-chair of the working table responsible for the democratization process and the respect for human rights in the territory of Yugoslavia and the region.

Original article