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European Union Pledges Aid, Membership for Balkan Nations

November 25, 2000|From Associated Press

ZAGREB, Croatia — The struggling nations of the Balkans came away from a summit with the European Union on Friday with promises of billions of dollars and eventual membership in the European organization.

French President Jacques Chirac said the 15-nation EU was offering the Balkan nations "a true, individual partnership . . . defining the steps that must be taken and the reforms that must be accomplished."

At the one-day meeting with counterparts for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia and Albania, EU leaders offered $4 billion in economic aid and duty-free access for 95% of the Balkan nations' industrial and farm products.

If EU money is added to existing bilateral economic assistance from EU countries, more than $11 billion will be funneled into the region over the next five years.

More important, European leaders promised that the door to EU membership is open--when the countries are ready. EU rules say that only democratic nations, living in peace with their neighbors and with market economies and solid human rights records, need apply.

Chirac, whose nation holds the EU presidency, said that the EU was ready to embrace the countries of the former Yugoslav federation and that they must cooperate with the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

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