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Europe: Security Plans To Be Debated At OSCE Lisbon Summit

  • Roland Eggleston

Munich, 29 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Diplomats preparing for next week's European summit in Lisbon say there is still no agreement on a declaration about a pan-European security structure involving NATO, Russia and the countries of the former Warsaw Pact.

The preparatory meeting in Lisbon is considering papers presented by Russia and the European Union and a new paper offered this week by the United States. A spokesman said they reflected "widely different" views on a security structure for Europe which would come into effect at the beginning of the new century.

Diplomats said Russia is again pressing for a pan-European security treaty embracing NATO, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Union and its military wing and other European organizations involved in security issues.

In Russia's view OSCE would be the linchpin of this structure with all the other institutions operating under its umbrella. OSCE's oversight role would be controlled by a steering committee with Russia, the United States and the European Union as permanent members. Other members of OSCE would participate in the steering committee in rotation.

Russia first proposed this idea in August 1994. It has failed to win the support of any OSCE meeting because of opposition from the United States and most West European states.

Diplomats said the United States and Britain are again leading the opposition at this week's preparatory meeting in Lisbon. Most Western countries consider the Russian proposal an attempt to undermine the plans to bring some Central European states into NATO. The countries wanting to join NATO have made it clear they share these suspicions.

Diplomats say Russian statements in Lisbon this week make it clear that Moscow is not deterred by its previous failures and hopes to persuade the summit to take concrete steps towards introducing such a security structure.

One veteran Western diplomat said Moscow was following a familiar tactic. "It does not matter whether an idea fails or not," he said. "Moscow will bring it back again and again and again in the hope that eventually it will gain support."

He described the process as similar to water dripping on a stone over the years until eventually the stone weakens and a hole develops.

Russia's views will be pressed at the summit by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. French diplomats say Chernomyrdin sought French support for Moscow's approach during a visit to Paris earlier this week. At that time he said the Lisbon summit should "start a process to put in place a new security architecture for Europe."

Diplomats say Russian diplomats have also made clear that Chernomyrdin will also use the summit to reaffirm his strong opposition to the eastward expansion of NATO.

Diplomats say Russia is conducting a campaign to suggest that it is mostly the United States which wants NATO to expand. In his comments in Paris, Chernomyrdin said "certain forces" in NATO were being "obstinate" about pursuing the expansion of NATO. Diplomats said they interpreted this as meaning primarily the United States.

Another problem being discussed in Lisbon in advance of the summit is the technical nature of the summit statement on a new security structure for Europe.

Some European Union countries want it to call for a "charter" on European Security. In the diplomatic world, a "charter" often involves binding commitments. The United States is unwilling to accept this. A U.S. paper circulated this week proposes only a "new structure of co-operation" without any binding commitments. Those who have read the U.S. proposal say it contains lofty ideals about the need for common security based on democracy and co-operation but few concrete measures.

Several countries will use the summit to make a new attempt to introduce what is called the " OSCE First" principle. In essence this means that cross-border crises or disputes should be referred to OSCE mediation first rather than to the United Nations or any other international body. Although it has the support of many countries, it failed to win approval at previous OSCE meeting because of the opposition of Armenia.

Diplomats in Lisbon say Armenia has again opposed the idea at this week's meetings. However a new variation of the idea is now being discussed which would allow OSCE to consider a situation even if one of the parties objects.

Most OSCE actions require the consensus of all 54 active members. It is now proposed that these crises could be discussed so long as all members except one agree. In OSCE terminology it is known as "consensus minus one." However, diplomats in Lisbon say there is no guarantee the idea will be put to the summit if Armenia maintains its objections.

European security will be the main issue at the two-day summit. The other major issue is OSCE's commitment to rebuilding a civil society in Bosnia, including conducting communal elections early in the New Year. OSCE agreed in advance of the summit to extend its mandate for Bosnia for another year after it expires next month.

The other issues to be considered at the summit include the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh, the continuing defiance of the Abkhazia region of Georgia which went ahead with elections on November 23 despite international opposition, the situation in Moldova and other crises.

There is expected to be an extended debate on Chechnya, where the OSCE has a special mission.