March 19, 2000Montenegro key to Balkan agenda
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- Senior European officials and the premiers of the countries bordering Yugoslavia agreed Saturday that Montenegro should stay within the Yugoslav federation but with closer contacts with other nations in the region.
The leaders announced that position at the end of a two-day meeting that brought together officials from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia and Romania as well as the president of the Muslim-Croat federation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The meeting was a prelude to this month's conference of the Balkan Stabilization Pact, a Western plan to bring economic development to southeastern Europe.
Attending part of the sessions were NATO's secretary general, Lord Robertson, and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. They both urged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end his economic blockade of Montenegro, the smaller of the two republics which form Yugoslavia.
But no one suggested that Montenegro should go its own way.
"There is no need for Montenegro to leave the federation now," Solana told reporters.
The participants expressed concern about fresh violence in Kosovo and in southern Serbia, including the Presevo Valley, where ethnic Albanians have taken up arms against Serb rule.
"The international community must do its utmost to prevent a new armed conflict," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.
While recognizing Montenegro's place within the Yugoslav federation, Orban and Stability Pact coordinator Bodo Hombach stressed the need to include Montenegro in the pact's programs.
Hombach said some pact programs will be finalized this month and implemented within a year. They include building a border crossing between Kosovo and Macedonia and a Danube bridge linking Romania and Bulgaria, as well as rebuilding a Danube bridge destroyed in last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.