EU lifts ban on YU commercial flightsBy PAUL AMES
BRUSSELS, Belgium (February 14, 2000) - The European Union's foreign ministers lifted a ban Monday on commercial flights to Yugoslavia but also tightened travel restrictions on people close to the Yugoslav government.
The ban on commercial flights from the 15 EU countries into and out of Yugoslavia was imposed last spring during the Kosovo crisis. The decision to lift it follows appeals from Yugoslav opposition leaders who say it hits ordinary citizens more than the ruling elite around President Slobodan Milosevic.
The ban will be suspended for six months with the possibility of a permanent lifting afterwards.
"This is a very important decision because it supports the opposition in Serbia," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said.
EU officials said the legal text lifting the ban still had to be made final and it was unclear when flights would be allowed to resume. It was also unclear which airlines would fly into Yugoslav points. Several major European carriers did so before the ban was imposed.
The United States has backed the proposal to suspend the flight ban, but said political and economic pressure on Milosevic and prominent government supporters should be stepped up.
Even as the EU ministers ended the flight ban, they extended a travel ban on Milosevic's associates and leading supporters.
Some 200 politicians, military and police officers, business leaders and others were added to an existing list of over 600 Yugoslavs - including Milosevic - who are banned from traveling to the 15 EU nations. The names of those added to the list were not immediately released.
The ministers also asked the EU's Executive Commission to close loopholes that let Milosevic and those close to him avoid a freeze on their international assets, mostly notably by cash transfers through European banks.
"EU banks (should be) made aware of and understand their obligations," the ministers said.
Also Monday, the EU ministers approved $35 million in aid for Kosovo. But they warned that further assistance would be "dependent on progress in interethnic reconciliation."
They also promised to give "urgent attention" to appeals for more U.N. police officers in the province. Some 4,780 police officers were supposed to patrol the province under the Kosovo peacekeeping plan, but only about 2,000 have arrived.