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Kosovo signs the new CEFTA agreement

Bucharest, 19 December 2006 - The prime ministers and government officials of Central Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries on Tuesday signed the CEFTA-2006.

Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Moldova, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Romania signed the agreement on CEFTA enlargement, a revision that replaced 32 bilateral agreements and covers the enlargement and modernization of the organization.

CEFTA 2006 harmonizes trade rules across the region, covering areas such as trade in services, intellectual property rights, competition, public procurement and investment promotion.

The participants shared the view as to the importance of the CEFTA-2006 in bringing the region's countries closer to the EU.

"We are opening a new chapter in the history of our region. The European Commission supports the new accord on free trade, which is in line with the European integration process," Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn highlighted the importance of the CEFTA, saying it was a step forward to the EU. He also pledged support to further EU enlargement in line with its absorption capacity.

"EU will keep its door open for Turkey, Croatia and other countries, but at the same time it will take care about its own capacity to integrate new members, Romanian news agency Mediafax quotes Commissioner Rehn as saying.

Prior to signing ceremony, the participants adopted a declaration highlighting CEFTA's goals to boost economic reform as one of the main prerequisites for EU accession.

CEFTA was established by Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1991. Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Macedonia joined CEFTA later on. Each participating state drops out of the CEFTA once it joins the European Union.

Through CEFTA, participating countries hoped to mobilize efforts to integrate Western European institutions and through this, to join European political, economic, security and legal systems, thereby consolidating democracy and free-market economy.

The new CEFTA agreement was signed by Joachim Ryker, head of UNMIK, on behalf of Kosovo. Kosovos Minister for Trade and Industry, Bujar Dugolli, also participated in the ceremony.

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