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High Level Steering Group for South East Europe Supports Initiatives for Regional Integration

Brussels, March 27, 2000 - The High Level Steering Group (HLSG) of key Finance Ministers and IFIs1, co-chaired by Messrs Pedro Solbes, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and entrusted with the strategic direction of the donor co-ordination process for the economic reconstruction, stabilisation reform and development of South East Europe (SEE) has announced its recommendations to donors ahead of this week's Regional Funding Conference for South East Europe to be held in Brussels, March 29-30, 2000, in support of the Stability Pact.
The HLSG noted that significant progress has continued to be made to address both short and long-term economic and social challenges that have emerged following the Kosovo crisis. However, despite this progress, the countries of the region continue to bear the social and economic costs of regional instability. Policies to support regional development and integration remain a critical ingredient for success.

The Group reviewed and stressed the importance of a set of priority regional projects and programmes to be presented to the Regional Funding Conference, including quick start packages for regional infrastructure projects, identified by the European Investment Bank (EIB) at EURO 1.1 billion, and for private sector development and investment in the region, identified by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at EURO 290 million.

The HLSG also recommended the mobilisation of adequate donor support for relevant regional initiatives put forward by the Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact, Mr. Bodo Hombach, aimed at strengthening education and vocational training and youth programmes; governance and anti-corruption; addressing human rights and national minorities interests, promoting democratisation, and strengthening security in order to ensure sustained and long-lasting stability and prosperity for all people in South East Europe region.

The Group underlined the importance of the forthcoming Regional Funding Conference, March 29-30, co-chaired by Messrs. Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations, and James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, and also stressed the need for strong commitment from the countries of the region to reform their economies and strengthen their institutions.

Statement by the High Level Steering Group, March 22, 2000

1 Its membership includes the Finance Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Portugal (representing the Presidency of the European Union), as well as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact of South-Eastern Europe, and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN). In addition, a number of Development Ministers, as well as the Finance Minister of the Netherlands and the representative of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) are associated to the deliberations of the HLSG.