Brussels, 20th February 2003 - The President of the European Commission, Mr. Romano Prodi, will be visiting the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 20th-21st February as part of the European Commission's close relationship with this country under the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp). During his visit, President Prodi will reiterate the European Integration perspective for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and underline the Commission's support to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's reform process, encouraging the authorities to enhance their reform efforts.
President Prodi will visit Skopje on 20th-21st February, where he will meet President Trajkovski and Prime Minister Crvenkovski. Meetings are also planned with the Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Popovski and party leaders. President Prodi will also address the Parliament and will meet delegations of students from Skopje, Bitola and Tetovo at the Skopje University of St Cyril and Methodius. President Prodi will also be present at the signing ceremony of a local infrastructure project funded under the CARDS Programme, in presence of the Minister of Local Self Government, Mr. Gestakovski, and a delegation of thirty Mayors participating to the project. A meeting with the religious leaders is also scheduled.
"Balkan countries are integral part of Europe and the enlargement process of our continent will be completed only when they will become members of the Union" stressed President Prodi.
In this perspective President Prodi will underline the Commission's support to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's reform process and will encourage the authorities to accelerate the pace of the reforms needed to implement the Ohrid Framework of August 2001. In the same context Prodi will also stress the importance of the decentralisation process within the deadlines agreed.
President Prodi will also focus on the full implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which is a central component of the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp) which aims at accompanying and supporting South-eastern European countries in their way towards the EU.
The EC is a major donor to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In the period 2001-2004, €130 million have been allocated under the CARDS programme. Priority areas for this assistance include Justice and Home Affairs, including the strengthening of the judiciary, improving border management, and fighting organised crime, fraud and corruption. Other important areas are: Administrative capacity building, Economic and social development, including certain key areas such trade, education and local infrastructures; Environment and natural resources, and finally, Democratic stabilisation addressing particularly the strengthening of civil society in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Following the recent agreement reached with the IMF, an additional package of € 46 million shall be provided, subject to the approval of the agreement by the IMF Board and respect by the Government of the economic policy conditions.