EU hails Macedonia effort to join EU

March 21, 2006 at 11:50 AM
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SKOPJE, Macedonia, March 21 (UPI) -- The president of the European Union's Commission Tuesday told Macedonia he strongly supported a proposal to set up a Western Balkan free trade zone.

In his letter to Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, Jose Barroso said the European Commission would continue to assist Macedonia in approaching the EU, and added, "The future of your country is in the European Union."

Barroso said Macedonia achieved a decisive step in December when the European Council decided to grant candidate status to the Skopje government, the Macedonian information agency MIA reported.

However, Barroso warned numerous challenges remain on the road to EU membership such as the reform of the electoral process, the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

The EU leader underlined regional cooperation as a key element of the EU policy in the western Balkans.

"In this context, the commission strongly supports proposals to create a regional free trade agreement. Regional trade integration would contribute to the economic development and be a powerful signal to foreign investors," Barroso said.

He said the commission plans to present proposals to the member states on visa facilitation for Western Balkans countries.

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