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Central/Eastern Europe: Presidents Praise Council's Democratic Role

Strasbourg, France; 13 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Three prominent Central and East European leaders have praised the Council of Europe's role in helping their nations achieve democratic reform.

The three leaders --Czech President Vaclav Havel, Estonian President Lennart Meri and Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov-- all spoke at Saturday's session of the Council's summit meeting in Strasbourg, France

Havel said that the willingness of Eastern nations to gain membership in the 40-member Council brought numerous improvements that advanced human rights and democracy in those countries' domestic legislation. He called the Council "an anchor of values (as well as an) inseparable component and a driving force of the European integration process in the fields of human rights (and) protection of democracy,"

In his remarks, Estonia's Meri said that his country had, with the help of the Council, strengthened its democratic institutions and passed vital legislation in conformity with the Council's norms and values. He said that the Council will remain historically connected with Estonia's regained sovereignty and its re-found international identity. Meri concluded: "For this Estonia remains grateful."

Bulgarian President Stoyanov said the Council's Strasbourg summit, attended by 44 European states, demonstrated what he called its "European universality." That showed, he said, that the Council of Europe had lived up to its name and successfully fulfilled the mandate of creating democratic security that was given to it at its first summit meeting in Vienna four years ago.