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Brussels, 15th February 2001

Southern Serbia : Commission announces aid

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, Nebosja Covic pay a visit today to the European Commission to discuss the peace plan for the Presevo Valley recently produced by the authorities in Belgrade.

Commissioner Patten, currently in Moscow, said: "The European Commission is determined to contribute to efforts to prevent further conflict in southern Serbia. The time for conflict is past. We intend to work with people of goodwill to promote dialogue and to safeguard peace in this area. I welcome the constructive approach being taken by the Belgrade authorities. My officials are examining closely the economic element of Belgrade's peace plan. We very much share the desire of the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities to tackle the problems in the Presevo valley, and in particular to address some of their long term causes. It is vital to establish a normal life for people of the region and to foster economic activity. The European Commission is ready to contribute to this task. We are currently considering what long-term contribution we can make under our € 240 m programme for Serbia in 2001. In the meantime, we have decided to double immediately the scale of our effort in the Presevo valley area. I am happy to announce an additional € 900,000 contribution under the European Commission's emergency programme for Serbia. "

The immediate support package comprises 24 projects in Presevo, Bojanovac, Medvedja and Kursumlija designed to make a practical difference quickly to people's every day lives. A team from the European Agency for Reconstruction has visited the Presevo valley in recent days and drawn up a list of projects for immediate implementation. These include reconstruction of six primary schools, the provision of furniture to them, the supply of some basic municipal equipment, and improvements to water supplies.

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