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East/West: EU Pledges To Support Developing Nations

New York, 24 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union is circulating a document to the 53rd United Nations General Assembly that pledges to use the EU's considerable political and economic strength to promote global peace and stability.

The 72-page memorandum deals with a wide range of topics including the Balkans, Central Europe and Russia.

Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, speaking on behalf of the EU, said the union has grown from 116 million people in 1958 to 370 million this year. Austria currently holds the presidency of the EU.

He noted that with only 8 percent of the world population, EU members are the strongest supporters of the United Nations in contributing 36 percent of its regular budget and more than 38 percent of its peacekeeping expenses.

Schuessel said in a speech before the General Assembly this week: "the Union is ready to use its political weight for the benefit of the entire international community, in particular developing nations."

The foreign minister said the EU states provide 80 percent of all international aid to Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union as well as half of the assistance to the Palestinian territories. He said 40 percent of the reconstruction help to Bosnia and Herzegovina comes from the member states of the EU.

The document said the EU supports regional cooperation initiatives as ways to enhance stability, prosperity and integration in Europe. It said the union welcomes the development of these regional initiatives such as the Central European Initiative, the Council of Baltic Sea States and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

Consolidating the peace in the former Yugoslavia, as well as providing reconstruction and refugee assistance, the EU document declares, continues to be one of the union's top priorities.

Concerning the Serb province of Kosovo, the document notes that the EU has repeatedly condemned the use of indiscriminate violence by federal Yugoslav and Serbian security forces against the largely ethnic Albanian population. It says Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "bore a heavy personal responsibility" in this regard. Likewise, it says, it has called on the Kosovo Albanian leadership to state clearly its rejection of violent attacks and acts of terrorism.

On Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the EU says it continues to pursue its goal of strengthening democracy and constructing a civil society, fostering respect for human rights, fully implementing market economies and closely integrating these economies with the rest of the world. It took note of EU accession negotiations with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

The EU document calls on Russia "to constructively engage in international cooperation in the field of foreign policy and security matters."

It says the EU continues to be ready to cooperate with Russia in promoting political, economic and social reform.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov pledged on Tuesday in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly that Russia intends to press ahead with its reform policies despite its current financial difficulties.

In Moscow Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said that Russia will pursue a mixed policy of more market reforms along with increased spending on industrial production and social welfare.

Primakov made the comments while meeting with Horst Koehler, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).