Brussels, 18 March 2003 - The European Commission has granted more than €6 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations in Serbia. The aid will provide basic food and support durable solutions for about 160,000, refugees from Bosnia and Croatia and internally displaced people (IDPs) from Kosovo. It will be allocated via the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office, ECHO, under the responsibility of Commissioner Poul Nielson, to international agencies operating in the country. ECHO is currently phasing out its humanitarian interventions in the Balkans, opening the way for other Commission services to provide longer-term assistance. Between 2000 and 2003, ECHO finalised its interventions in Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. ECHO has contributed more than €2 billion in humanitarian aid to the region since 1992.
After a decade of conflict and humanitarian crisis there has been progress towards stabilisation and economic reform in Serbia and the Balkans over the past two years. Since the transition process was triggered by the fall of the Milosevic regime in 2000, humanitarian agencies have been gradually scaling back their relief operations in the region. This funding decision will run until the end of 2003, by which time ECHO will have phased out most of its humanitarian assistance.
This decision will address the basic humanitarian needs of these vulnerable groups by offering food assistance and support to help rebuild their lives. It will contribute towards the distribution of basic food parcels for 50,000 displaced persons and about 118,000 refugees in Serbia.
ECHO's support is also intended to help these vulnerable populations move away from aid dependency towards a certain degree of self-sufficiency. Eligible and motivated individuals will be provided with in-kind grants to enable them to generate some income. ECHO will also continue to support UNHCR in its efforts to help refugees return to their countries of origin.