European Economic Area 2 in the Balkans?

A two-day European Parliament conference in
Brussels is dealing with the stabilisation and reconstruction
of the Balkan countries. Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka
Fischer has proposed the creation of a “European Economic Area
2” to the five Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Croatia, Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

The European Parliament conference on 17-18 September is
dealing with the issues of economic reconstruction and
development, and the fight against organised crime,
especially the trafficking of illegal immigrants from the
Middle East and Central Asia.

This is now the biggest concern for the
EU, and the Commission wants to establish a functioning
Interpol network in each Balkan country, fully linked to
the rest of the Interpol network and, increasingly, with
Europol. The EU would also like to establish a regional
judicial and prosecutorial network, including joint
investigations and prosecutions dealing with cross border
crime, as well as a common and Schengen-compatible policy
on visas, immigration and asylum.

Mr Fischer has proposed to create an
economic union among the Balkan countries at the Genval
informal meeting of EU foreign ministers on 9 September
2001. The economic union would serve as a waiting room for
prospective EU membership for the five Balkan
countries.

 

Croatia has rejected the proposal for a "European Economic
Area 2" citing the sensitivities of Croatians about other
countries in the region. Croatia, whose economy is facing
severe economic difficulties, considers itself as better
placed to join the EU than other countries in the region,
and is trying to distance itself from the Balkans.

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Yugoslavia signed
a memorandum of understanding for liberalising trade in the
region in June 2001. This should lead to the establishment
of a network of Free Trade Agreements by the end of 2002.
The Memorandum lays foundations for a common market of 55
million consumers.

Greek Foreign Minister Jorgos Papandreu
has supported Mr Fischer's initiative. Greece has been in
favor of a "regional solution" for almost a year.

Britain and France expressed skepticism
about the proposed economic union in the Balkans.

 

The EU has created a special Stabilisation and Association
process for five Balkan countries - Albania,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Yugoslavia - to
facilitate their integration in European institutions.

The Stability Pact was launched at the
European Union's initiative in June 1999 to help foster
peace, democracy, human rights and economic prosperity in
the countries of South Eastern Europe.

 

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