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Brussels, 8 December 2000

Poul Nielson to visit the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 11-15 December

Poul Nielson, European Commissioner for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid will visit the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) from 11 to 15 December 2000. The visit will start in Belgrade before continuing to Montenegro and Kosovo. High-level meetings will be held with President Kostunica and representatives of and international aid agencies, such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, as well as Non-Governmental Organisations. In Montenegro, Mr Nielson will meet with President Djukanovic before going on to Kosovo, where he is expected to have discussions with Bernard Kouchner, Head of the UN Interim Administration (UNMIK) and Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo. In the course of his visit, Poul Nielson will stress the European Commission's ongoing solidarity with the population of the FRY, following the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Speaking before his departure for Belgrade, Poul Nielson said: "Relations between the EU and the FRY have improved dramatically in recent months since the fall of the Milosevic regime. It is important to consolidate this process and one of the key aims of my visit will be to pave the way for even closer co-operation The EU has undertaken to provide large scale of assistance of which some, I'm satisfied to see, is already arriving."

Poul Nielson's visit to FRY follows on from the Biarritz European Council of 13 October and the announcement by Commission President Prodi of an emergency programme for Serbia totalling €200 million. This Emergency Assistance Package involves energy support, medicines, foodstuffs and support for municipalities to an amount of up to €180 million, as well as an additional €20 million for continued humanitarian aid for refugees and displaced people. Most elements of this programme have already been launched by the Commission with items already being delivered in Serbia.

The FRY has already received considerable EU humanitarian aid channelled through the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

All in all, the Commission has allocated more than €949 million for the FRY since 1991, including €525 million for humanitarian aid.

The Commission has just approved a further €31.6 million of humanitarian assistance to the region which will address the winter needs of the many refugees, displaced people and the socially deprived. To avoid gaps in the delivery of humanitarian aid during the critical winter months, another funding decision is being prepared for adoption early next year.

Serbia's displaced population is still one of the largest one in Europe (508,000 refugees and 180,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)). In some municipalities, the numbers of refugees and IDPs is equivalent to more than 40% of the local population. Continued food assistance remains vital for the most vulnerable groups.

In 1999 the EU provided €58 million in humanitarian assistance to Serbia. With the adoption of the most recent decision relating to winter needs, emergency aid to Serbia in 2000 will amount to €73 million including ongoing support to:

  • social institutions (for fuel, food etc.);

  • the primary health care system (targeting the most vulnerable groups);

  • social services (community support including psychosocial counselling);

  • shelter (basic rehabilitation assistance);

  • water and sanitation.

In Montenegro, EU support focuses on food, medical supplies, emergency shelter, water and sanitation rehabilitation, support to host families, and psycho-social activities. The programmes implemented target those most in need among vulnerable groups - refugees, IDPs and the socially deprived. Special attention has been given to the large number of Roma IDPs who have little short-term prospect of returning to their home areas. In 1999, ECHO provided more than €17 million in humanitarian assistance to Montenegro. In 2000, the total allocation of humanitarian assistance amounts to more €10 million.

During 1999, the EU allocated €378 million in emergency assistance for the victims of the Kosovo crisis. This significant contribution reflects the solidarity of the EU with Kosovo's civilian population. This year, ECHO has made €47 million available to the region in its continuing effort to cover the most basic needs of refugees, IDPs and other vulnerable groups. ECHO is preparing the ground for a gradual phase-out of humanitarian aid. In the meantime, it is co-operating closely with the European Agency for Reconstruction, which is responsible for identifying, preparing and implementing most other ongoing EU assistance to Kosovo.

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