Serbia + 1 more

Press Statement by the Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten, on Energy for Democracy

Brussels, 3 December 1999

"I am appalled - but not surprised - at the callous behaviour of the Yugoslav authorities, who have held up 14 trucks of heating oil for Nis and Pirot for nine days now. This callousness towards their own citizens has extended to the drivers of the trucks, who have been confined in the small customs area at the border with their vehicles for the whole of this time. We understand that the customs authorities took their passports and refused to return them when relief drivers arrived to take over. I have therefore agreed that under the circumstances these particular trucks should now return to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the sake of the drivers. But I want to make it absolutely clear that the Energy for Democracy programme will continue. We have informed the Mayors of Nis and Pirot that we are preparing further deliveries which will be despatched very soon. We are determined to do all we can to honour our commitment to the people of Nis and Pirot despite the cynical opposition of Milosevic's officials. I understand that this morning Yugopetrol the state owned oil company delivered two trucks of oil to Nis, which the opposition-controlled authorities in Nis have paid for some time ago, but which hitherto Yugopetrol has refused to deliver. I am pleased the presence of the European Union's trucks at the border - and the demonstrations by the citizens of Nis and Pirot - have shamed and embarrassed the federal authorities into taking action".

(Background : see MEMO/99/65)