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Eu leaders reassure western balkans

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EU leaders reassure western Balkans

By Patrick Quinn, Associated Press, 6/22/2003

PORTO CARRAS, Greece - European Union leaders promised yesterday to provide the funds and the political will to eventually include the western Balkans in their expanding bloc. They then closed a summit in which they had agreed to start final negotiations on the EU's first constitution.

They also moved to balm their bruised relationship with the United States, by endorsing a strategy paper that recognizes the importance of the trans-Atlantic alliance in the face of security threats.

In a separate statement, the 15 EU members and 10 states that will join next year urged Iran and North Korea to cooperate with international nuclear inspectors to dispel fears that they are developing nuclear weapons.

Meeting with leaders of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia-Montenegro, the 15 EU leaders granted $249 million in assistance and expressed an intention to one day bring those countries into the EU.

''Today has shown that this process is irreversible,'' said the European Commission president, Romano Prodi. ''We want to welcome the Balkans to the European house.''

In Thessaloniki, about 60 miles northwest of the summit site, hundreds clashed with police during protests of US policies and other issues. Rioters burned some stores and looted a McDonald's restaurant. Other marches were mostly peaceful.

EU leaders used the promise of future EU membership to push two of the Balkan region's most recalcitrant members to the negotiating table, announcing that Serbs and Kosovo Albanians will begin talks next month to normalize relations.

The talks will not touch on Kosovo Albanian demands for independence but will include such issues as energy, transportation, missing persons, and the return of refugees.

The summit, aimed at forging greater unity within the EU as it prepares to accept 10 new members, inevitably revisited the Balkan wars, which exploded as Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia began crumbling in the 1990s. EU officials have said European unification would not be complete without the Balkans.

This story ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 6/22/2003.
Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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