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Brussels, 22 February 2001

Patten to attend Skopje Summit of South East Europe Co-operation Process on 23 February

Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten will travel to Skopje on 23 February for the 4th Summit of Heads of State and Governments of South East European Countries (SEECP(1)). Mr Patten's attendance at this event signals the Commission's strong support for initiatives led by countries of South East Europe to work together to promote regional development. The need for a new era of regional co-operation was one of the principal messages at the 24 November 2000 Zagreb Summit. The presence in Skopje of one EU Member State together with three candidate countries and the five countries of the EU's Stabilisation and Association Process will demonstrate how the perspective of EU membership one day is a motor for regional co-operation. Commissioner Patten will represent the EU together with the High Representative for CFSP, Secretary General Javier Solana.

The Commissioner will set out how the EU is giving substance to its promise to help the countries of the Stabilisation and Association process travel down the road to Europe. In view of recent events in Southern Serbia and Kosovo, he will emphasise the need for a clear break with the past throughout the region and a condemnation of all forms of politically motivated violence.

EU relations with the countries of the region have made considerable progress since the Zagreb Summit: following the completion of negotiations last year the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with FYROM will be shortly signed and the trade provisions implemented in an interim agremeent; negotiations with Croatia on an SAA are progressing well; work with Albania in the new High Level Steering Group to prepare for future negotiations on an SAA has got off to a good start; there is intensive co-operation with the FRY on putting right the devastation of the Milosevic years and ensuring Belgrade can take full advantage of the Stabilisation and Association process. The Commission continues to work with Bosnia and Herzegovina on essential reform steps needed to make an SAA with the EU a practical proposition.

Mr Patten will explain how EC technical assistance will both underpin regional co-operation (breaking down barriers to trade, fighting illegal immigration and organised crime, better border management) and help the countries of South East Europe meet the challenges of closer integration with Europe. The Community will spend €4.65 billion in 2000-2006 under the new technical assistance programme for the region.

During his visit the Commissioner will have bilateral meetings with President Trajkovski and Prime Minister Georgievski, and with other participants in the Summit.

(1) The SEECP comprises Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania. Croatia is an observer. Website SEE HYPERLINK

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