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Meeting between mayors of various Italian cities and mayors of five cities of the FR of Yugoslavia

Rome, 20 December 1999 - The meeting between the mayors of Italian cities and the mayors of five cities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under the control of forces opposed to the government in Belgrade ended this afternoon at the Farnesina.

This meeting paved the way for a programme of humanitarian aid, dubbed "Operation City-to-City", to be carried out mainly in the cities of Belgrade, Kragujevac, Nis, Novi Sad and Pancevo. It will be funded by resources from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Development Co-operation office and with contributions from Italian municipal and regional councils and Non-Governmental Organisations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lamberto Dini, opened the meeting with a speech in which he said that "Operation City-to-City" will be carried out under the ensign of human solidarity and that the initiative is part of a vaster plan to foster democracy and stability. Under-Secretary Rino Serri was also present at the meeting, which was chaired by Under-Secretary Umberto Ranieri. Participants in the debate included the Mayors of Rome, Francesco Rutelli, of Trieste, Riccardo Illy, of Carrara, Lucio Segnanini, of Ferrara, Gaetano Sateriale, of Modena, Giuliano Barbolini and of Lecce, Adriana Poli Bortone.

The work session continued in the afternoon in the form of five Working Tables, one for each of the five Yugoslav cities involved.

The meeting enabled the Italian Co-operation office, in collaboration with the United Nations, to establish the reference frame in which to get various actors involved and stimulated in activities of decentralised co-operation assistance to the five Serbian cities. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has already made 2.5 billion liras available, allocated by the Directorate General for Development Co-operation, for humanitarian and emergency operations to address the most urgent needs. These operations will be carried out in agreement with the Serbian and Italian municipalities. They will consist basically of operations to rebuild primary schools and shelter centres for displaced persons. Funds will also be used to purchase foodstuffs, heating stoves and for small-scale operations in the sector of environmental pollution and operations to make the water drinkable.

This initial package of operations will be followed by a more structured programme for which the Italian Co-operation office has earmarked 10 billion liras for next year. Work began during today's meeting to define that programme and establish the ways in which the local Italian bodies present will participate in it.

Meeting between Under-Secretary Ranieri and the Mayor of Belgrade

Rome, 20 December 1999 - Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Umberto Ranieri, met the Mayor of Belgrade, Vojslav Mihajlovic, yesterday evening. Mr. Mihajlovic is in Rome for the inaugural session of the "Operation City-to-City" initiative held today at the Farnesina.

Their talks focused on the humanitarian situation in the city of Belgrade and the difficult conditions under which the population is obliged to live following years of crisis and isolation.

Mayor Mihajlovic underlined the need to restore confidence in the population with humanitarian operations that demonstrate the international community' commitment and which fuel the desire for change that is present in Serbian civil society.

Under-Secretary Ranieri confirmed Italy's readiness to set in motion forms of decentralised humanitarian co-operation, in particular between local bodies of the two countries.

Mr. Ranieri also pointed out that the Italian government, in line with the position of the governments of other European Union member countries, is committed to reducing the weight of the embargo and its consequences on the civilian population. Lastly, Mr. Ranieri stressed the fact that Italy supports the forces that are fighting for the development of democracy in Serbia.