CEOL - Greece, Albania criticize delays in Balkan Aid plan

ATHENS, Dec 22, 1999 -- (Reuters) Greece and Albania issued a joint call Wednesday for faster implementation of a massive Balkan reconstruction plan following a prime ministers' meeting here.

"We must, in the end, move towards concrete projects and actions," said Greek Prime Minister Costats Simitis after a two-hour meeting with his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta, who was making his first foreign visit since taking office in November.

The Stability Pact reconstruction plan was launched by the European Union and the United States in July to bolster support for NATO intervention in Kosovo by offering neighboring countries aid to offset the economic consequences of the conflict.

But Simitis declared that the plan had "unfortunately not progressed as fast as we would have liked."

The two men had earlier signed an economic agreement and agreed to work together to promote tourism, the Greek prime minister announced.

For his part Meta welcomed the economic cooperation between the two countries and hoped it would become stronger. Greece is Albania's second largest economic partner.

Both men also welcomed a deal signed on Monday between the countries' law and order ministers to increase cooperation between their police forces and reinforce border patrols to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Albania into its richer neighbor.

Greece is home to 500,000 Albania immigrants and Simitis said his country had undertaken to begin a process to normalize their status.

Meta said accords would be drawn up to regularize seasonal work and expressed satisfaction with the way in which he said the position of Albanians in Greece was improving.

Meta will be a guest of Greek president Costis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday night and return to Albania on Thursday morning.

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