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Brussels, 5 Octobre 2001

Statement by Commissioner Patten on the anniversary of the fall of Slobodan Milosevic

"It is exactly a year since the fall of Milosevic. Slobodan Milosevic is now where he should be. He represents the worst of the past in the Balkans. Now the new government in Belgrade, supported by the European Union and the international community, is getting on with the task of building a better future.

A year ago, the European Union promised the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) that democratic change in their country would mean a transformed relationship with the EU. Today, the relationship between the European Union and the FRY is fundamentally changed - for the better. A year ago, Belgrade was in international quarantine. Today, the FRY is recognised as a valuable partner both by the international community, and by the family of European nations.

A year ago, the European Commission promised assistance on a tremendous scale as the new democratic government in Belgrade embarked on the task of repairing the damage done by the Milosevic regime, and of implementing fundamental political and economic reform. We have honoured that promise.

Within weeks of Milosevic's removal, the European Commission launched a € 200 million emergency assistance package to help get Serbia and its new democracy through the winter. On the 11th of November 2000, our first deliveries of heating fuel started to arrive. Over the winter, we delivered nearly 7000 trucks of fuel, paid for over 70% of Serbia's electricity imports, and put medicine in hospitals and pharmacies, and food in shops throughout the country.

An additional emergency package was agreed earlier this year in response to the conflict in Southern Serbia. This has delivered the renovation and refurbishment of six primary schools and the rehabilitation and extension of two water supply schemes in the Presevo Valley area.

Since then, we have started to implement our longer-term assistance programme for the FRY - worth € 230 million in 2001 alone - to help build the institutions necessary for a modern, democratic, market economy a potential member, one day, of the European Union. Our assistance is helping with agricultural reform, legal advice, economic restructuring; and we are also investing heavily in improving the physical infrastructure of the country, like the electricity grid.

It is an immense programme, and it is being delivered speedily and efficiently.

We are also working intensively with the FRY to prepare, in due course, for negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association agreement.

It has been a difficult, dramatic year. Many months of hard, sometimes painful reform lie ahead. We will continue to stand by the people of the FRY as they go through this transition. I pay tribute to all they have achieved in such a short time".

Of the EC Programmes for Serbia in the year 2000, 99% of the fund had been contracted by the end of September 2001, and 91% paid. For the programmes for the year 2001, 80% had been contracted by the end of September 2001, and 34% paid. These figures reflect the impressive speed with which our programmes are being implemented by the European Agency for Reconstruction.

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