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Saturday, 11 November, 2000, 22:15 GMT
Serbia gets first EU aid
Transformer substation at Nis damaged by Nato bombing
Serbia's power supplies are increasingly unreliable
The first consignment of a European Union emergency aid package has arrived in Serbia.

This will lead into a much expanded programme to deliver energy, heating fuel and diesel to cities across the whole of Serbia

EU attache Michael Graham
Twenty trucks brought heating oil and fuel to five Serbian towns, as part of a programme of assistance designed to boost the new democracy.

The scheme was originally designed to reward Serbian towns where people had voted opposition parties into power on a local level, but the EU has promised to expand it.

The BBC Belgrade correspondent, Jacky Rowland, says Western governments want Serbians to reap the rewards of democracy quickly, in the hope they will once more vote against the party of former President Slobodan Milosevic when parliamentary elections are held in December.

Keeping promises

Mr Milosevic was ousted from power last month by a popular uprising in support of the election victor, Vojislav Kostunica, but still has to share power in Serbia with Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party.

Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica
The EU wants to reward Serbians for choosing Kostunica
The EU attache Michael Graham welcomed the convoy as it crossed into Serbia in the presence of Serbia's minister for mining and energy, Srboljub Antic.

"This is a great day because it shows that we are living up to our commitments ... this is the first tangible sign," Mr Graham said.

"This will lead into a much expanded programme to deliver energy, heating fuel and diesel to cities across the whole of Serbia," he said.

Mr Graham said that another 20 trucks would follow "every day for the next 23 days".

Inherited problems

EU officials have made it clear that the convoy is only the beginning of a much bigger aid project, which will help to heat hospitals, schools and homes all over Serbia.

There will also be deliveries of medicine, diesel oil and heavy oil to keep power plants and coal mines through the winter.

The EU commissioner for external relations, Chris Patten, said the aid package would help the new democratic authorities in Belgrade to deal with the problems inherited from the era of President Milosevic.

The EU has approved $172m in assistance for Serbia including $69m for the electrical power grid to alleviate a spate of power failures attributed to old machinery, late maintenance and a summer drought.

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See also:

03 Nov 00 | Europe
Poll threatens Yugoslav unity
01 Nov 00 | Europe
UN embraces Yugoslavia
24 Oct 00 | Europe
Serbian rivals close to deal
02 Nov 00 | Europe
Yugoslavia comes in from the cold
01 Nov 00 | Europe
New bid to prevent Yugoslav break
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