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Europe: EU Foreign Ministers Face Full Agenda

  • Clifford Smith

Brussels, 24 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - The European Union's (EU) Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels today is expected to focus on relations with Eastern Europe, the Mideast and Central Africa. RFE/RL's correspondent in Brussels reports there will also be a bilateral meeting with Romania's Foreign Minister Adrian Severin and another meeting of all the candidate countries for EU membership.

Our correspondent anticipates the most active issues under discussion will be the reopening of aid channels to Albania and the approval of sending a small, but real force to help restore law and order in the country. The two questions are linked, since the sending of any kind of aid depends on a minimun level of security for the aid workers. Security is also necessary to see that food, for instance, gets to the people for whom it is intended.

EU Foreign Ministers will also consider how they will proceed with their decision, already taken in principle, to send an advisory mission to Albania to study the police, military and civilian fields.

Another point of decision for the Ministers concerns the granting of "autonomous trade measures" to Serbia and Montenegro. In practice, the granting of these trade measures would amount to a first step in restoring aid priviledges for former Yugoslavia, but which were withdrawn from Belgrade during the war in Croatia and Bosnia. The main criteria for the decision is said to be the extent to which authorities in Belgrade have carried out the recommendations of an EU report issued in December. The report called for full implementation of the results of last November's elections, for starting a political dialogue with the opposition, and for allowing freedom for the media.

Our correspondent also reports relations with Russia are expected to come up under several headings. Finland's Minister briefs his colleagues on talks between President Boris Yeltsin and Finnish authorities. Those talks were held on the sidelines of the Helsinki Summit, and after President Clinton's departure.

Romania's delegation is expected to give the EU more detailed information on the ambitious reform program announced by Romania's new Government last month in Bucharest. After a recent meeting of the joint Romania-European Parliament commission, Radio Bucharest reported that representatives of the G-24 countries agreed to grant Romania about $145 million in aid to cover Bucharest's trade deficit. The announcement was made by Romania's Minister of European Integration Alexandru Herlea. The EU also agreed to release the second installment of an $81 million loan granted in 1996, which was frozen because of the previous Romanian government's economic policies. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are also expected to make loans tied to economic reforms.

On the Polish front, RFE/RL's correspondent in Warsaw reports a Polish delegation presented a memorandum to EU commissioners last week, appealing for funds needed to tighten-up the eastern frontier shared with the Russian Federation (the Kaliningrad region), Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. The head of the Polish delegation, Interior Minister Leszek Miller said Warsaw needs the money, since Poland is due to become an eastern border of the EU. Miller proposed the creation of the "Integrated Cooperation Program - Polish Eastern Border," which would go further than the existing support program. Our correspondent reports that Warsaw wants the funds to upgrade existing border crossings and to better equip its border guards.

Also contributing to this report were Michael Shafir, OMRI; Chris Klimiuk, Warsaw; and Bogdan Lefter, Bucharest.