South East Europe should apply pre-accession reforms, work together to counter economic crisis, say RCC head, EU commissioner
BRUSSELS/SARAJEVO – South East European countries aspiring to join the EU should apply the necessary pre-accession reforms, continue with regional cooperation and mutual assistance, and decouple accession talks from bilateral issues, concluded Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Hido Biscevic and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn at a meeting in Brussels yesterday.
During the meeting, held as part of consultations between the RCC and the European Commission (EC), Secretary General Biscevic briefed Commissioner Rehn of the current situation in South East Europe (SEE) in light of the ongoing financial crisis and economic recession.
“Impact of the crisis on SEE could be particularly harsh given that the region is still in transition and has yet to complete peace, which is why an EC assistance is a necessity”, said Biscevic.
“We have further established an active cooperation with the current Czech and future Swedish EU Presidencies in developing a strategic concept and projects in the priority areas of energy, infrastructure, transport and electricity, which are to serve both as a platform to counter crisis effects and an incentive to continue with necessary reforms in SEE.”
Commissioner Rehn said that the EC and the international financial institutions (IFIs) have been working to ensure that measures be taken to respond to current social and economic difficulties in SEE. He informed that the EC is mobilizing 150 million euro within the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) in order to fund a Crisis Response Package and finance measures that will help alleviate the crisis in SEE.
Additionally, the EC is preparing a programme under IPA Multi-beneficiary 2009 to release around 80 million euro for support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), energy efficiency and competitiveness, as well as for banking sector supervision and regulation, said Rehn.
He encouraged the RCC Secretary General and the organization to continue to develop, with the EU Presidency, the idea of having the SEE countries work together on large-scale development projects that would engage IFIs funding, remedy social consequences of the economic recession and give additional incentive to continued reforms.
Secretary General Biscevic informed Commissioner Rehn of the preparations for the RCC Annual Meeting and the Summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) to be held on 4-5 June 2009 in Chisinau, Moldova.
The RCC Secretary General also met with Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research, to discuss preparations for the Ministerial Conference on Developing Regional Research Strategy for the Western Balkans, to be co-organized by the RCC and the Czech EU Presidency in Sarajevo, on 24 April 2009. The two officials agreed that development of concepts of Trust Based Societies and Knowledge Based Economies was an essential tool for accelerated development and modernization of societies.
During the visit to Brussels, the RCC Secretary General took part in the Brussels Forum 2009, organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.