|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.13, 29.3.01, p6|
EU FOREIGN policy chief Javier Solana has proposed setting up a special forum for Macedonia's political leaders to discuss ways to bring the country closer to the Union.
Solana, who has visited Macedonia twice in the last week to boost peace efforts in the strife-torn country, told MEPs that he had suggested using the Stability and Association Agreement (SAA) that Macedonia will sign on 9 April to launch the new body.
"The SAA process could be used as a framework for a new dialogue," he told the assembly's foreign affairs committee. "A Europe Commission of the main party leaders from both communities could be established for the purpose of a broad dialogue on reforms step designed to bring [Macedonia} closer to Europe."
The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia will be the first Balkan state to sign the accord, which offers countries of the region the hope of EU membership if they meet political and economic standards.
Solana's proposal came as the European Commission was urgently trying to find extra money to support political efforts to keep the peace in Macedonia. Officials are examining ways to bring forward spending from next year to fund a range of projects to tackle the ethnic Albanian community's concerns about its status in Macedonia society. This would include funding for the Albanian university in the city of Tetovo, and possible financing of an Albanian language television station.
Macedonia is already scheduled to receive €40 million this year from the EU's Balkans reconstruction programme plus €12 million from ECHO, the Union's humanitarian-aid scheme, and €80 million in macro-economic assistance.
EU officials are increasingly confident that its diplomatic efforts to shore up peace in Macedonia are paying off. Leaders of ethnic Albanian parties, who were persuaded by Solana to condemn the rebels' use of violence to achieve political aims, credit the Union's diplomats with helping stabilise the situation.
Arben Xhaferi from the Albanian party DPA, which is part of the government coalition, said: "Troops and weapons did not stop the violence. What did it was the hope provided by the EU that it would intervene in starting political negotiations."
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has proposed setting up a special forum for Macedonia's political leaders to discuss ways to bring the country closer to the Union. Solana, who has recently visited Macedonia twice to boost peace efforts in the strife-torn country, told MEPs that he had suggested using the Stability and Association Agreement (SAA) that Macedonia is due to sign on 9.4.01 to launch the new body.
|Countries / Regions||Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia|