Skopje/Pristina/Brussels, 7 March 2000
Today, in presence of European Commissioner for External Relations, the Rt Hon Christopher Patten, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and UNMIK, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, are signing up for a joint programme of enhanced cross-border cooperation. FYROM and UNMIK have agreed on a comprehensive programme of co-operation on cross-border economic issues, initially aimed at improving the whole Skopje-Pristina corridor. This constitutes the result of considerable efforts on both sides to facilitating crossing times at this border, which is still etched in the minds of many as a result of the humanitarian disaster of last year, and had since become a byword for delay.
Commissioner Patten said at today's signing ceremony in Skopje: "This Cross-Border Cooperation is an excellent example of the Stability Pact in action. The Pact encourages members in the South-East Europe region to work together to improve regional integration and to lay the foundations for economic growth and political stability. I am delighted that FYROM and UNMiK have taken this idea to heart and quickly come up with an ambitious, comprehensive programme of cross-border cooperation. The EU will support this effort with 5 mln euros towards the Blace/Hani I Elezit Border Crossing through the European Agency for Reconstruction. Other donors within the Stability Pact are keen to be involved too, including Germany and the Netherlands as well as the United States. I look forward to seeing a wide range of donors involved in supporting this exciting set of projects."
The EU support, both financial and technical, will be made available for the work on customs and administration procedures foreseen in the new agreement. The EU has agreed to fund a number of projects at the Blace/Hani I Elezit Border crossing, including the renovation of the customs house, a new temporary customs clearance building, and cleaning and fencing the truck holding area.
The programme will start immediately, with a series of concrete measures to improve and modernise border infrastructures and facilities on both sides, including publishing of vehicle crossing times in each direction, and to make better use of existing infrastructures, including 'Eurotrade' and a similar facility in Kosovo. The agreement also includes a shared commitment to examine, and simplify legislative and administrative procedures on both sides of the border, to reduce costs and to progress with harmonisation with EU standards. High level political oversight will be ensured through regular meetings and a mechanism for the evolution of the agreement to cover further areas of cooperation. Other Customs Administrations and related organisations will be invited to join this process.