EU official calls Balkans, Middle East and Africa key priorities

The European Union's top foreign policy official said Monday that the continent's key strategic priorities were the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa.

Improving the security situation in the volatile Balkans is a "European responsibility," Javier Solana told members of the Paris-based European Union Institute for Security Studies.

Experts and local officials have long warned that the Balkans _ with its porous borders, unsophisticated security systems, rampant corruption and organized crime _ is a major transit route for terrorists.

Solana said the EU had to continue working on the ground to help ensure the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip succeeds, and also adopt a new strategy for Africa.

Solana was meeting with top French officials during a two-day visit to Paris.

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