A senior official with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says the Balkan Reconstruction Summit that is about to start in Sarajevo will help the countries of the region join Euro-Atlantic structures more quickly. Our correspondent in Sarajevo filed this report.
Sarajevo, 29 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Ambassador Robert Barry is the OSCE coordinator for Southeastern Europe. He spoke today at a press conference in Sarajevo.
He was asked about the broader impact of tomorrow's summit, which brings together some 30 countries from the Balkans and Southeastern Europe with the United States, the European Union states, Canada, Japan, and others:
"It's going to, in the first place, hasten the accession of the countries of the region to the Euro-Atlantic community, that is, to the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and NATO's Partnership for Peace. But at the same time, it's got to increase cooperation among the countries of the region themselves."
Barry said that, instead of elbowing each other aside to get into the European Union first, the countries of the region need to cooperate with one another because that is the way stability can be achieved.
The ambassador said that lessons have been learned in the reconstruction of Bosnia that could be of use to the broader region. He said one of these lessons is the need to pay real attention very early to economic reform. For example, he said conditions must be created for private investment. Such conditions do not now exist in Bosnia, despite the resources invested into humanitarian aid and reconstruction.
Important also is the issue of dealing with crime and a corrupt judiciary. Barry said: "There is a danger that the main security problem of this region will be organized crime, not ethnic cleansing."
Barry said that administrative reforms undertaken in Bosnia, such as judicial reform, could well be copied in institutions in the region. In Bosnia, for example, a new election law will require that women be represented as candidates among political parties, since the belief is widespread that women have important contributions to make in bringing stability to politics. He said other countries in the region could consider similar measures.
Speaking of the larger countries grouped around the constellation of smaller Balkan states, like Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, Barry said these countries can both benefit from the reconstruction process and contribute to it.
"They can certainly benefit from it. They were damaged by the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia because it upset trade patterns and their own economies. So yes, they will be beneficiaries, but they will also be countries which can benefit because in many cases their institutions are more advanced than the countries of the former Yugoslavia."
Barry was asked whether the Balkans Stability Pact could operate effectively in the absence of Serbia, which has been excluded from reconstruction efforts for as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.
Barry said that, indeed, the pact will probably not be as effective as it could be if Milosevic were no longer in power. But he said representatives from the Serbian opposition and from Montenegro are attending tomorrow's summit, which is a good sign.
In addition, he said the pact members can help strengthen non-governmental organizations in Yugoslavia, therefore helping to bring about reform.