Friday, September 22, 2006

Macedonia implements final CARDS program pending accession to EU

This year sees the final implementation of a European Union (EU) financial support program in Macedonia, pending the Balkan country's accession to the EU, officials from Skopje announced on Wednesday.

The announcement was made by Macedonian Vice Prime Minister Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska and the European Commission enlargement official Pierre Mirel at a press conference in Skopje, capital of Macedonia, reports reaching here said.

The Balkan country has received the aid of 30.5 million euros (about 38.6 million U.S. dollars) under the EU's Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilization (CARDS).

Mirel was quoted as saying this did not mean that the EU support to Macedonia would stop. On the contrary, it would continue to help the country through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), starting from 2007, the official said.

He added that an additional 14 million euros (about 17.7 million dollars) would be allocated through the regional program.

"These funds are a grant from the EU budget, which is a clear indicator of our support for the country's efforts in the reform processes. Projects to be financed reflect the country's progress on one hand, as well as the need for further reforms on the other, " Mirel said.

Konevska-Trajkovska said that the final implementation of the CARDS program in Macedonia represented the completion of a successful cycle of cooperation with the EU and support for Macedonia in the stabilization and association process.

"A new page in the cooperation with the EU in 2007 begins with the opening of the IPA, which will play an essential role in the country's structural reforms in the future," she said.

She added that Macedonia was fully ready to implement reforms aimed at the realization of the necessary criteria for full EU membership.

The deputy prime minister told the EU official that Macedonia wanted to launch negotiations with the bloc for fully-fledged membership in 2007. Macedonia was granted EU candidate state in December 2005.

The CARDS program is aimed at boosting EU ties with Balkan countries, including Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro.

Since 1991, the EU has committed, through various assistance programs, 6.8 billion euros (about 8.6 billion dollars) to the Balkan countries. In 2000, the aid to the region was streamlined into the form of CARDS.

Source: Xinhua

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