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Europe: Bosnia And Security Top Summit Agenda

  • Roland Eggleston



Vienna, 21 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Two controversial issues top the agenda for next month's European security summit in Lisbon: the construction of a civil society in Bosnia and the introduction of a new security structure for Europe involving both Russia and NATO. Each is the source of much argument.

The summit on December 2 and 3 will bring together the leaders of the 54 states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). They meet every two years to discuss all aspects of European security.

U.S. President Bill Clinton was expected to attend the summit as part of his first overseas tour after winning re-election. But OSCE officials tell our correspondent that the United States will be represented instead by Vice President Albert Gore. And Russia is expected to be represented by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

For the past three weeks, diplomats have been meeting in Vienna to smooth out differences in advance of the summit and resolve controversies.

OSCE was given a major role in Bosnia in organizing elections and disarming military forces. Its mandate for those operations expires at the end of the year. A spokesman in Vienna tells RFE/RL the OSCE wants to remain active in Bosnia for the next two or three years, and play an important role in developing a civil society there. To do so it needs a mandate from the Lisbon summit.

But, diplomats tell our correspondent that there has been sharp criticism at some of the closed-door meetings in Vienna of the way OSCE performed in organizing elections. Some delegates want to limit its future activities.

OSCE has been attacked by some critics for allowing parliamentary elections to go ahead, although they were not free and fair as required by the Dayton accords. The local elections, which OSCE originally intended to hold this weekend, had to be postponed until next year because of organizational difficulties and continuing hostility among the three political groups.

A side issue during the Bosnia debate is the possibility of re-admitting Belgrade to the OSCE. Its membership was suspended in July 1992 because of its military aggression. But Russia and some other countries say Belgrade should be allowed to resume its seat now that the war is over and the United Nations Security Council has lifted its sanctions. Other parts of the former Yugoslavia are already members.

The other major issue for the Lisbon summit is the problem of devising a new security structure for Europe. Experts from all 54 member-states have been meeting for two years to create a comprehensive security system. The experts are required to submit a report on their progress to the Lisbon summit, but diplomats say it is unlikely that any decisions will be taken at this time.

Diplomats tell our correspondent that Russia has developed a series of ideas for a new security structure involving Russia, the CIS and NATO. Some diplomats say Moscow apparently hopes such a structure could avoid the expansion of NATO. Many of Russia's ideas have received only limited support, but it is expected to revive some of them in Lisbon. At the preliminary talks in Vienna, Russia has renewed an old plan to make the OSCE an umbrella for European security organizations. According to this, NATO, the CIS, the West European Union and other security and defense organizations would co-ordinate their activities through the OSCE.

A U.S. diplomat tells RFE/RL: "This idea has been rejected several times for good reasons, but the Russians keep coming back with it." He said he expected the majority of OSCE states to reject it again.

Russia has also proposed the creation of a permanent OSCE executive committee for dealing with security issues. In Russia's concept, it would be a planning and steering body, in which Russia, the United States and the European Union would be permanent members. Other states would participate on a rotating basis. One diplomat described it as being like the U.N. Security Council.

Diplomats in Vienna say there is little enthusiasm for the project, although Germany supported a similar Russian idea in the past. The United States opposes it. It is also opposed by the smaller member-states.

One of the great attractions of the OSCE to smaller countries has been that every vote is equal -- the vote of a small nation like Moldova is as important as the vote of Russia, or the United States, or Germany. Most feel this principle would be endangered by creating a steering committee of powerful states.

However, diplomats say there is some support for a third Russian proposal, which is that the OSCE should be given a legal structure. Although it is an internationally recognized organization, its legal status is vague. Some countries have complained that they have difficulties in allocating budget resources to the OSCE because it does not have a proper legal status.

In another aspect of the security issue, Russia and some other CIS members are again calling for changes to the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which set limits for the number and type of conventional weapons which can be based in different parts of Europe. A meeting of CIS members in Moscow last week agreed to draft a proposal for changing the CFE Treaty before the Lisbon summit.

Diplomats say Russia and its allies are seeking a thorough revision of the treaty, because of what they call the "changed military and political situation." Among other things, Russia wants to broaden the treaty. The original treaty was limited to members of NATO and the old Warsaw Pact. Russia has proposed that it be broadened to bring in Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states.

Russia has already won some changes to the CFE treaty.

In June, Moscow persuaded the other signatories to accept changes allowing it to place more tanks, armored vehicles and artillery in the Caucasus than provided in the treaty. In fact, the amendments only recognized what Russia was already doing. The changes required the approval of all 30 signatory governments, but only seven have done so until now (Canada, France, Italy, Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands and Slovakia). But even as the changes were accepted in June, Russia was already saying they were insufficient, and Moscow wanted a thorough revision of the whole treaty.

Diplomats say OSCE is also concerned at the power struggle in Belarus between Parliament and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Diplomats said there was little OSCE could do, but it was sure to be discussed at the summit. There is also concern about the separatist Transdniestr region of Moldova. This month, Russia State Duma adopted a resolution suggesting that a permanent Russian military base be established in the region.

The Libson summit will also review the deadlocked negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Months of talks have failed to bring the sides any closer to a political settlement, although the ceasefire established in 1994 is still holding. New negotiations are being held in Helsinki this week in a final effort to achieve some progress before the Lisbon summit.

Diplomats say there is also a dispute over who will replace Finland as co-chairman of the negotiating group when Helsinki gives up the post at the end of the year. France, Germany and the U.S. are among those seeking to replace Finland, which has held the post for the past 20 months. The other co-chair is Russia, whose position is generally accepted as permanent.
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