Switzerland hails Yugoslavia donors conference a success

Miroljub Labus, leader of the Yugoslav delegation at the donors conference, smiles at press conference on Friday Keystone

The Swiss delegation attending an international donors conference organised to raise funds for the Republic of Yugoslavia has hailed the event as a success.

This content was published on June 29, 2001 - 19:49

By the end of the conference in Brussels on Friday, $1.28 billion had been pledged in development aid to help lift the Balkan country out of economic chaos.

Switzerland offered to contribute SFr40 million ($22 million) to the fund, while the United States pledged $181.6 million (SFr325 million) and the World Bank $150 million (SFr269 million).

Remo Gautschi, head of the Swiss delegation at the Brussels meeting, said a large proportion of Switzerland's contribution would be spent on humanitarian aid in Yugoslavia.

"Much of the SFr40 million will be spent on helping displaced people, minorities, and elderly people - hospitals, for example, have to be reconstructed," Gautschi said in an interview with swissinfo.

"Social aid is a priority for us," he added, "and there will be a concerted effort to help small and medium-size enterprises."

Gautschi also highlighted the severe shortage of energy resources in Yugoslavia and confirmed that much of Switzerland's contribution would go towards alleviating the electricity crisis.

"Most of the money will go into the electricity sector, since there are many power stations which need to be rebuilt."

World leaders acknowledged that the extradition of the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague had encouraged participating countries to contribute to the fund.

The Swiss delegation described Milosevic's extradition as a positive step, but rejected the suggestion that the mood at the conference had been euphoric as a result.

"We took a high-noon position regarding Milosevic," Gautschi told swissinfo.

"The Yugoslav government has undertaken a lot of the necessary steps to comply with international obligations and if the government proceeds in this direction, Swiss assistance will be forthcoming."

The meeting in Brussels was called to assess the Yugoslav government's economic recovery plan, which requires funding of almost $4 billion over the next three to four years.

But Gautschi cautioned against too much attention being focused on the success of the financial negotiations in Brussels, saying there was still a long way to go before Yugoslavia could enjoy a return to lasting economic stability.

"I think this aid is a necessary step," he said, "but it will not be sufficient."

"In the next weeks and months the debt question has to be tackled. There is a huge amount of debt which needs to be rescheduled, and we must now turn our attention to this."

swissinfo with agencies

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