FM offers support to Balkans

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis yesterday expressed Greece’s willingness to play a key role in offering economic and political support to Balkan states and backing their accession to the European Union during a whistle-stop tour of the region that culminates in Pristina today. On her first stop in Sarajevo, Bakoyannis promised Bosnia 29 million euros in aid over the next two years to help fund reconstruction and development projects. Her Bosnian counterpart, Mladen Ivanic, called for «swift steps to ensure the development of our economic cooperation which has not yet reached the desired levels.» The pair also discussed the creation by this summer of a business forum in Sarajevo to bring together Greek and Bosnian entrepreneurs. Later yesterday, Bakoyannis was in Belgrade for talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic, which focused chiefly on the question of talks to resolve the final status of Kosovo. «We support a process of negotiations which is free to develop, without any suffocating deadlines, and lead to a mutually acceptable solution,» Bakoyannis said. «History shows that imposed solutions are not viable,» she added. Tadic said a final settlement on Kosovo should protect the rights of Serbs in the province and reiterated calls for safe, autonomous Serbian municipalities in Kosovo. Bakoyannis is due in Vienna today for the informal summit of EU foreign ministers. Tomorrow, she is due to have talks with her Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik (whose country holds the EU presidency) which are expected to focus on Cyprus and the eventual accession of western Balkan states to the bloc. Meanwhile yesterday, Bakoyannis’s deputy, Evripidis Stylianidis, pledged 600,000 euros in state funding to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) after meeting with UNAIDS Director Peter Piot in Athens.