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EU: Leaders Tell Balkan Countries Future Is EU Membership

Porto Carras, Greece; 21 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- EU leaders today ended a summit with five Western Balkan countries, saying the future of the region is in membership in the European Union. RFE/RL's correspondent at the summit in Greece reports Javier Solana, the EU's foreign-policy chief, said a "very clear signal" was sent to representatives of Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina that they have a "road open" to EU membership.

The EU said in a statement that organized crime and corruption remains a "real obstacle" in the Balkans and "a source of grave concern" to the EU. The statement said combating it should be a "major priority."

Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, who chaired the summit, said the Balkan countries will get more EU support for insitutional, economic and social reforms. He said the EU will give an additional 200 million euros to the region over the next three years, bringing the total between 2000 and 2006 to nearly 5 billion euros.