Brussels, 8 December 1999 - The Commission adopted today a communication put forward by the Commissioner responsible for External Relations, Chris Patten, setting out guidelines and detailed arrangements for the implementation of the Community's future assistance to certain countries of South East Europe-Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) for 2000-2006. The Communication aims to tailor the delivery of assistance to the region more closely to the objectives of the EU's strategy and needs on the ground. On the basis of these guidelines, the Commission will present a draft regulation on implementing assistance in the first quarter of 2000. This regulation will provide a single legal basis and a single set of procedures for assistance in the region. As announced by President Prodi at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul, the Commission estimates that a sum of € 5.5 bn in the form of grants is conceivable for the period 2000-2006. This sum serves as a "political" financial reference point.
In the past, two Regulations, PHARE and OBNOVA, have provided the legal bases for Community assistance. It is now proposed to rationalise existing instruments and to streamline the Community effort. The figure of € 5.5 bn serves as a "political" financial reference point, it being understood that the political instability in the region does not make it possible at this stage to draw up a duly substantiated financial statement. The Community has always stressed the need for the countries of the region to work more closely together. By adapting to needs on the ground and emphasising a regional strategy, the improved Community assistance will contribute to the existing Stabilisation and Association process (see: IP/99/350) which includes closer association with European Union (EU) structures and the prospect of gradual integration into them.