ECONOMY

EU aid for Balkans

The European Union last week approved more aid for Serbia and Montenegro, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) this year and in 2006, as part of its Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stability (CARDS) program of annual support for the 2000-2006 period. For 2005, the Commission approved 34.5 million euros for FYROM, 184 million euros for Serbia and Montenegro and 54 million euros for Kosovo. For Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, these programs are still under consideration and will be approved within 2005. The Commission added that support for Balkan states has been adjusted to the new conditions, shifting the focus from reconstruction toward developing state institutions and their gradual convergence with European ones. Therefore, the financial assistance is primarily targeted at promoting democracy, law and order, human rights and free markets. The total EU aid for Balkan nations in the 2000-2006 period reaches 5 billion euros. The Commission stated that the aim of CARDS is to help the participation of the western Balkans in the stability and cooperation process, which is the EU policy for those countries until their possible access to the Union. Regarding Croatia in particular, whose membership candidacy is considered definite, it will benefit from the financial support of the preaccession period while also maintaining its right to participate in the CARDS regional programs.