NEWS

Simitis works to clear air in Belgrade

BELGRADE – Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrived in Belgrade yesterday for an official visit aimed at reviving Greek-Yugoslav ties after a chill caused mainly by Athens’s delay in fulfilling promises to provide aid. Simitis, on the first visit by a Greek head of government in 17 years, was scheduled to meet with a broad range of representatives from Yugoslav political and social life over two days. Tomorrow he will meet with the federal president, Vojislav Kostunica. Yesterday he met with federal Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic. He was also scheduled to hold talks with the leaders of Yugoslavia’s two constituent republics – President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. He was also to meet with the patriarch of Serbia’s Orthodox Church, Pavle. «We decided to make this an official visit because we wanted to signal a new start in relations between our two countries,» Simitis said after meeting with Pesic. In his meetings, he assured Yugoslav officials of Greece’s support for their country’s entry into the EU and NATO. The Yugoslav leadership welcomed Simitis’s promises of support. But they must have been disappointed over what they had awaited most keenly – the flow of funds from Greece for the restoration of the national infrastructure. The two sides did not sign a bilateral agreement for Yugoslavia to get 235 million euros from Greece’s 550-million-euro Balkan Reconstruction Program, which is to provide funds also for Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. The draft of the memorandum had to be studied first by the Yugoslav authorities and they only received it from Greece the day before Simitis’s visit began, shortly before midnight. Simitis was therefore limited to handing the file with the draft to his Yugoslav counterpart, adding that he hoped that «by the end of June all the relevant documents will be signed so that experts can begin cooperating to examine and decide on special investment projects that will be carried out.»