|Wednesday, 21 October 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 94, 01-05-17
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 94, 17 May 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN COMMUNISTS CALL FOR ACCESSION TO RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION STATEMore than 10,000 people attended a rally in Yerevan on 16 May convened by the Communist Party of Armenia to demand Armenia's accession to the Russia- Belarus Union state, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Participants in the demonstration then marched to the Armenian parliament to protest legislators' refusal to debate their demand for a national referendum on the issue. Armenia's Communists have been lobbying for accession to the Russia-Belarus Union since 1997. LF
 ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ENTERS CONTROVERSY OVER 'OCCUPIED' LANDSSerzh Sarkisian told Armenian parliament deputies on 16 May that he does not agree with those politicians who advocate the term "liberated" to describe Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenian forces during the Karabakh war, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. "We occupied those lands in order to ensure the security of our homeland," Sarkisian said. Opposition parties strongly condemned Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian's use of the term "occupied" to describe those territories in a TV interview last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 16 May 2001). That term has negative semantic connotations in Armenian; Oskanian, who was born and grew up in Syria, has said he thought the Armenian term carried the same connotations as does the English one. LF
 ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT TO DISCUSS CALLS FOR PARLIAMENT SHOOTING TRIAL PROBEDeputies agreed on 16 May to convene a special session on 23 May to discuss the 15 May call by three political groups to set up an ad hoc commission to investigate the possibility that the five gunmen currently on trial for the October 1999 murder of eight senior officials are receiving "illicit legal counseling" from unnamed officials, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). Also on 16 May, pro-government papers lambasted the 15 May statement by those three parties as "nonsense," challenging the signatories to name those government officials to whom they allude. LF
 ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT TO ADOPT NEW PROGRAM OF EARTHQUAKE RECONSTRUCTIONUrban Development Ministry official Vardan Sardarian told a press conference in Yerevan on 15 May that the reconstruction of medical facilities and schools in the region of northern Armenia devastated by an earthquake in December 1988 will be completed by the end of this year, Noyan Tapan reported on 16 May. But Sardarian said that because of unspecified difficulties, the construction of housing for those whose homes were destroyed will not be finished until 2003. He said an additional 14, 000 apartments must still be built. Thousands of residents of the northern city of Gyumri still live in trailers or other temporary accommodation. Sardarian said that his ministry has drafted, and will soon submit to the government, a 95 billion dram ($170 million) program for reconstruction that will be overwhelmingly financed by diaspora and other foreign donations. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT ESTABLISHES STATE COMMISSION FOR EXPORT OF OIL, GASHeidar Aliev on 16 May issued a decree establishing a state commission to oversee the development by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company of the Azeri, Chirag, and Gyuneshli oil fields, the construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil export pipeline, and the export of gas from the Shahdeniz field to Turkey, Turan reported. Aliev named Fuel and Energy Minister Majid Kerimov to head that commission. LF
 OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ASKS IMF TO PRESSURE AZERBAIJANI GOVERNMENTFormer parliament speaker and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Rasul Guliev asked IMF officials during a meeting in Washington on 15 May to pressure the Azerbaijani government to implement "real" reforms and to establish control over budget expenditures, Turan reported the following day. Guliev said there is currently no control over the budget or the state oil fund established in late 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January 2000). He added that "corruption, monopolism, and criminal privatization" constitute serious obstacles to economic reform in Azerbaijan. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SLAMS DELAY IN IMPLEMENTING BALCEROWICZ RECOMMENDATIONSEduard Shevardnadze warned ministers responsible for the economy on 16 May they risk dismissal if they continue to delay implementation of the recommendations drafted by former Polish Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, the architect of Poland's "economic miracle," who since last summer has served as his economic adviser, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 2000). Shevardnadze expressed dissatisfaction that having ignored Balcerowicz's initial advice last year, ministers have again failed to act on his recommendations to intensify the struggle with corruption, amend fiscal and credit policy, and provide greater incentives to small and medium businesses. Shevardnadze noted that the IMF has made similar recommendations, and failure to act on them may have "serious consequences" for Georgia's relations with the fund and other creditors. LF
 ABKHAZIA PROTESTS FURTHER MURDER BY GEORGIAN GUERRILLASThe Abkhaz Foreign Ministry addressed a statement on 16 May to the UN, the OSCE, the Russian Federation, and the Friends of the UN Secretary-General for Abkhazia, asking them to require the Georgian government to comply with its obligations to rein in the Georgian terrorist groups now operating in western Georgia and Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion, Caucasus Press reported. The killing by guerrillas on 12 May of an Abkhaz soldier shows that the Georgian leadership has no intention of doing so, the statement said. It warned that that failure risks destabilizing the situation in the conflict zone, delaying the return of displaced persons, and deadlocking the ongoing peace talks, and "renders impossible any agreement on more important aspects" of a political settlement of the conflict. LF
 HEALTH OFFICIAL IN KAZAKHSTAN WARNS OF AIDS EPIDEMICFor the second time within one month, a health official in Kazakhstan has warned that the country may be on the verge of an AIDS epidemic. Turar Chaklikov, who heads the national center to prevent the spread of the disease, told a regional conference in Almaty on 16 May that 1,700 persons in Kazakhstan are officially registered as having tested HIV positive, more than in the other four Central Asian states combined, Interfax reported. He said Kyrgyzstan has 58 persons registered as HIV positive, Tajikistan 15, and Turkmenistan four. On 20 April, State Agency for Healthcare Issues Chairman Zhaksylyk Doskaliev told Interfax that the number of new registrations of persons testing HIV positive increased by 177 during the first quarter of 2001, raising the total number of cases by over 10 percent. It is not clear to what extent the high incidence of HIV infections in Kazakhstan reflects the increase in that country in drug abuse. Last November, it was reported that the number of drug addicts has risen by 300 percent over the previous five years. LF
 TAJIKISTAN TO JOIN PFPU.S. General Tommy Franks told journalists in Dushanbe on 16 May after talks with senior Tajik officials that Tajikistan has applied to join NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, and been accepted, Reuters and RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported. Tajikistan was the only former Soviet republic not to sign up for PfP when that program was launched in 1994. In an interview with "Krasnaya zvezda" on 22 February, Tajik Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Khairulloev explained that until a "stable peace" was established after the 1992-1997 civil war, Tajikistan did not have the "moral right" to sign up for PfP, but that the armed forces are now ready for such cooperation once the country's political leadership deems it appropriate. Franks said that joining PfP will give Dushanbe the opportunity to interact more effectively with the armed forces of other Central Asian states and to profit from training opportunities for its officers. He added that the U.S. hopes to develop military cooperation with Tajikistan, which he termed "a strategically important country," according to AP. LF
 UZBEKISTAN WANTS TO EXPAND TIES WITH JAPANMeeting in Tashkent on 16 May with a delegation of Japanese businessmen, President Islam Karimov said he intends to expand cooperation with Tokyo "in every field," Interfax reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN TRUCE TO CONTINUEThe government's deadline for fighters of the National Liberation Army (UCK) to lay down their arms or risk "elimination" expired at 12 p.m. local time on 17 May (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). Several hours earlier, armed clashes took place in the Kumanovo region, which an army spokesman blamed on the UCK. The previous day, President Boris Trajkovski said in a television broadcast that "patience, tolerance, determination, and readiness to compromise" are necessary to end the crisis. He added that the "horrifying alternative" is a "divided society in the whirlwind of war," AP reported. After the truce expired, Trajkovski said it will be extended because it is "bringing results," Reuters reported. He noted that many civilians used the opportunity presented by the truce to leave the area, which the government wants them to do. He did not say for how long the truce has been extended. He said that the rebels could be defeated "in one or two days." PM
 EU WARNS MACEDONIA AGAINST 'EXCESSIVE VIOLENCE'Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who currently holds the rotating EU chair, said in Skopje on 16 May: "Our message to the Macedonian government is that we welcome the new coalition government. We are willing to support the new coalition government, but the new government has to show restraint concerning the violence, the proportionate violence used [against] the Albanian extremist groups." She added that "it is now also important that we will, as soon as possible, also see steps forward concerning the Albanian minority situation in Macedonia, and here, I think the new government has a big responsibility," RFE/RL reported. She also referred to the ethnic Albanian guerrillas as "armed thugs." Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for foreign affairs, argued that the guerrillas' goals are more "criminal than political," AP reported. PM
 BALKAN MINISTERS CONDEMN 'EXTREMISM' IN MACEDONIA...Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told a meeting of his Balkan colleagues in Tirana on 16 May that "Albania, which has resolutely condemned violence and extremism and has supported the sovereignty of the Macedonian state and its territorial integrity, adheres to the view that political and democratic dialogue is the only way to overcome the crisis," RFE/RL reported. The ministers said in a statement that "they strongly condemned the terrorist acts threatening the security and stability of [Macedonia] as well as of the region as a whole... They called on ethnic Albanian extremist groups to cease armed violence, release hostages [alleged to be held as human shields], lay down their weapons, and withdraw immediately," Reuters reported. The text reflects a compromise. Macedonia wanted to condemn "terrorism," but Albania prefers the term "extremism." Many Albanians regard "terrorism" as hate-speech from the era of former President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
 ...CALL FOR 'PROPORTIONATE' RESPONSEThe foreign ministers of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia said in their statement in Tirana on 16 May that the Macedonian government should take "proportionate measures consistent with the rule of law" to deal with the insurgency. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva repeated the familiar charge that UCK members are "terrorists" operating out of Kosova. She added, however, that there are "no taboos" in the government's multiparty discussion of the country's future. Mitreva said that "through dialogue there is always room for [Albanians'] further advancement through the decentralization of power, advancement of local government, and greater representation in state administration," Reuters reported. PM
 YUGOSLAV-ALBANIAN RELATIONS IN THE SPOTLIGHTPrime Minister Ilir Meta met with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic at the gathering in Tirana on 16 May, dpa reported. They said in a statement that Meta will visit Belgrade "at an appropriate moment" in response to an invitation by Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Milo added that the two countries will reopen their respective embassies in each other's capital "soon." Milo called for efforts to "encourage the Serb minority to take part in the [Kosova general] elections and in all processes and efforts to build a democratic Kosova," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). Svilanovic told reporters that he hopes to meet with Hans Haekkerup, who heads the UN civilian administration in Kosova "in order to create [conditions for the Serbs] to participate." He did not elaborate. In their statement, the eight ministers "condemned the use of violence, terrorism, and extremism that jeopardize" the UN's and KFOR's efforts in Kosova. PM
 PRESEVO REBELS CLASH WITH KFOR TROOPSOne ethnic Albanian guerrilla from the Presevo valley was wounded and five arrested in a firefight between the insurgents and U.S. and Russian KFOR troops near Vela Glava in Kosova on 16 May, AP reported. A U.S. army spokesman said in Prishtina that the guerrillas opened fire on the patrol, which was heading to Vela Glava to investigate reports that insurgents were guarding a building there. KFOR has offered Presevo valley insurgents an amnesty if they surrender their weapons before Serbian forces return to the demilitarized buffer zone on 24 May. The amnesty does not apply to those who committed "serious crimes." It is not clear what constitutes a "serious crime." The "Daily Telegraph" reported that some 100 fighters have already taken up the amnesty offer made by Norwegian General Thorstein Skiaker, who commands KFOR. PM
 PRESEVO REBELS, YUGOSLAV FORCES STRIKE DEALIn an apparently landmark development, Presevo guerrillas and Serbian forces reached a mediated agreement in Lucane on 17 May to demilitarize the village, thereby removing an important source of tensions in the area. One guerrilla commander told AP: "We have signed the agreement, and with the help of the international community, the Serbs have signed it as well." Officials of NATO and the OSCE will observe the pullout of both sides' forces. The Serbian authorities issued a statement calling on the guerrillas to hand over their weapons and "spare the local civilian population further conflicts." An army spokesman added that "there must be no more fighting and war here." PM
 HAGUE COURT: SERBIAN LAW IS NOT ENOUGHCarla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, said in The Hague on 16 May that she "expects" the Serbian authorities to extradite Milosevic to the Netherlands as soon as a promised Serbian law on cooperating with the tribunal is passed, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 May 2001). Her spokeswoman Florence Hartmann argued that passage of the law is not enough in itself and that "what is more important is that [the Serbian authorities] start to cooperate" with The Hague, Reuters reported. Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale added that "we are looking towards a law that should be an acceleration towards cooperation with the tribunal and not any type of law that puts forward any obstacles...or acts in any way as a brake." The tribunal expects the extradition of Milosevic and other indictees, access to Yugoslav and Serbian archives, and the ability to interview witnesses in Serbia. Hartmann said that Serbian cooperation on the archives issue has been "totally marginal." PM
 CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR END TO 'ENTITY' POLITICS IN BOSNIAIvica Racan said in Zagreb on 16 May that the Republika Srpska should be abolished and "the character of both entities should be changed," Reuters reported. He stressed that no country can survive with two sets of laws. Racan noted that Croatia does not want the special ties with the Croat- Muslim federation the Dayton agreements allow it to have. He called on Belgrade to take a similar position and not maintain special ties with the Republika Srpska, Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service reported. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica is a long-time supporter of the Bosnian Serbs and has stressed the need for special ties between Belgrade and Banja Luka. PM
 DEAL ENDS HERZEGOVINIAN MUTINYRepresentatives of the Bosnian Defense Ministry and the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) reached a compromise in Mostar on 16 May to end the rebellion of hard-line Croatian troops (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 May 2001). The men will be allowed to return to their barracks provided they take a loyalty oath to the new government, which does not include the HDZ. HDZ leaders hailed the deal as a first step towards making the Croats the co-equals of the Serbs and Muslims, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Bosnian Defense Minister Mijo Anic, who is a non-nationalist Croat and anathema to the hard-liners, said that the process of reintegrating the rebels into the army should take 20 days, AP reported. In the meantime, security guards will occupy the barracks. PM
 MUSLIM COUNTRIES TO HELP FUND BOSNIAN REFUGEE RETURNSRepresentatives of an unspecified number of Islamic countries agreed in Doha, Qatar, to pledge $60 million over a six-year period to help finance the return of Bosnian refugees and displaced people. Bosnian Minister for Human Rights and Refugees Kresimir Zubak said that some of the money will be used to organize the return of 5,000 families, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 ROMANIAN LIBERALS MOVE MOTION AGAINST GOVERNMENTThe National Liberal Party (PNL) on 17 March moved in the Chamber of Deputies a "simple motion" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2001) against the cabinet headed by Premier Adrian Nastase. The motion is supported by 55 deputies representing the PNL and the Democratic Party. The signatories call on the government to take urgent measures to ensure that ownership rights are respected and to accelerate privatization. The motion says the government's economic policies are "steering the country toward disaster" and that Romania's population will be "plunged into the darkest poverty." The motion must be debated within six days, Mediafax reported. MS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT WARNS AGAINST 'ULTRANATIONALISM'Presidential spokeswoman Corina Cretu on 16 May said President Ion Iliescu wishes to "warn all political formations and organizations representing civil society" against displaying "ultranationalist, populist" positions under the pretext of reacting to the "Status Bill" currently under debate by the Hungarian parliament. Iliescu said "it would have been normal for the government in Budapest to consult the Romanian government before submitting the bill to debate and before including in it stipulations that are unacceptable to any sovereign state." He said he believes "rational, [mutually] acceptable" positions on the bill can be reached after consultations between the two governments, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Nastase reiterated on 16 May that the "Status Bill" cannot be applied on Romanian territory, saying "I do not believe the Hungarian government would be very happy if we were to pass a law to be implemented in Hungary." MS
 ROMANIAN RULING PARTY BARGAINS ON LEADING POSITIONS IN THE FUTURE PSDPremier Nastase told journalists on 16 May that his Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) is proposing that Social Democratic Party (PSDR) Chairman Alexandru Athanasiu become National Council chairman after their two formations merge. The merger is likely to take place next month and the PSDR has demanded that Athanasiu become first deputy chairman. Nastase said that the PDSR Executive Bureau decided that the future joint formation will have no first-deputy chairman. The joint formation is to be called Social Democratic Party (PSD). MS
 ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY EXPELS DEPUTIES...The Standing Bureau of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) on 16 May expelled PRM deputies Dorin Lazar Maior and Codrin Stefanescu for having ignored an earlier PRM warning to toe the party line, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Maior became PRM deputy chairman and Stefanescu party executive secretary after their extraparliamentary formation -- the Party of Democratic Forces (PDF) -- merged with the PRM in November 1999. Maior said in reaction that the PRM is a party "organized on the wrong principles," starting with the personality cult of its leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who "is surrounded only by people with bowed heads." Stefanescu said he had been expelled "due to the victory of the Talibans" in the PRM. Both deputies said they will join another party "closer to our ideals." Two other former PDF members, deputies Mircea Bucur and Valentin Paduroiu, resigned from the PRM on 17 May. MS
 UDMR HONORARY CHAIRMAN UNDER PARTY INVESTIGATIONThe Commission on Ethics and Discipline of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR) has launched an investigation against UDMR Honorary Chairman Bishop Laszlo Toekes, Mediafax reported on 16 May, citing the Hungarian MTI agency. The investigation follows a complaint by Salaj County Senator Laszlo Deak that during the 2000 election campaign, Toekes called on Romania's Hungarians "to abstain from backing the Salaj County UDMR list of Senate candidates." Toekes said in reaction that he had not "campaigned against the UDMR" but had "misgivings" about the inclusion on the lists of Salaj Senator Denes Seres, "who is not worthy of the [Hungarian minority] trust." Toekes said that after having failed to prevent Seres's running on the lists, he had called on the Hungarian minority electorate "to back the UDMR but to abstain from voting for the party's Salaj County Senate lists." MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, SEPARATIST LEADER SIGN AGREEMENTS...Vladimir Voronin and Igor Smirnov signed in Tiraspol on 16 May agreements on economic cooperation and the free access of journalists to cover news events on the two sides of Dniester River. They agreed to coordinate tax policies, remove custom points, guarantee foreign investments, and to mutually recognize official documents issued by the other side. However, when asked whether he recognizes the decree issued one day earlier by Voronin that says Moldova is to safeguard its territorial integrity, Smirnov replied the decree "applies only on Moldova territory." The RFE/RL Chisinau bureau said the authorities in Tiraspol transformed the signing ceremony into an opportunity of displaying "statehood," and that the table on which the agreements were signed was decorated with the flags of Moldova and the "Transdniester Republic." The two leaders are to meet again in Chisinau in June. MS
 ...BUT MEMBERS OF 'ILASCU GROUP' REMAIN IN JAILSmirnov told journalists he cannot agree to the liberation of the three remaining members of the "Ilascu group" still imprisoned in Tiraspol. He said he had "pardoned Ilie Ilascu" on the condition that Moldova officially apologize for its "1992 aggression" against the Transdniester and the apology has "thus far failed to materialize." Voronin said in reaction that the Transdniester conflict must be solved "without mutual recriminations" and Moldova "has no reason to apologize," Romanian radio reported. Regarding the 13 May Noul Neamt monastery incident, Smirnov said that he had learned about it "while fishing," but Voronin acknowledged he had been warned he would not be allowed to go to the monastery unless he had Smirnov's permission. "I just wanted to test who is interested in this conflict: the Transdniester leadership, [Moldovan Orthodox] Bishop Vladimir, or the Russian Patriarchate. Now I know," Voronin said. MS
 BULGARIAN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN KICKS OFFThe official electoral campaign for the 17 June parliamentary elections is starting on 17 May -- one month ahead of the ballot, BTA reported. Contrary to expectations, the new law on political parties did not generate a reduction in the number of formations competing for seats. No less than 85 parties and electoral alliances registered for the competition, of which 60 have been approved thus far by the Central Electoral Commission. For the first time since 1989, parties were able to apply for checking whether their candidates had been informers of the communist secret service. BTA said that only the three parties that are members of the current ruling coalition (the Union of Democratic Forces, the Democratic Party, and the Agrarian National Union-Popular Union) and the Business Bloc headed by Hristo Ivanov have done so. Under the law, the information is not released to the public, making it possible for parties to change candidates that are found to have been agents. MS
 BULGARIA SIGNS SAPARD AGREEMENTBulgaria is the first of the 10 countries bidding for EU membership to be allowed to administer itself the EU financial assistance provided under the SAPARD program, Agriculture Minister Ventsislav Vurbanov said on 15 May. EU Farming Commissioner Franz Fischer on the same day signed in Brussels the accreditation of the State Agriculture Fund as the agency that will implement the agreement, BTA reported. Under this accord, the Bulgarian farming sector will receive 53.2 million euros (some $46.5 million) annually until 2007. The program aims to promote agricultural investments, improve agricultural and fishing production processing, develop and diversify economic activities by providing alternative employment, and aid the formation of associations for agricultural producers. MS
[C] END NOTE
 LET US USE THIS CHANCE!The following is the final part of a three-part abridged version of the speech Czech President Vaclav Havel delivered on 11 May to the Bratislava summit of NATO candidate countries.
...The theme of borders of the individual entities and regional groupings has an immediate bearing on the all-important question of where is the eastern end of the West, and thus the ultimate eastern border of NATO. In other words, it is a question of possible membership for the three Baltic states. As far as the NATO-Russia relationship is concerned, this is apparently the most important question of all at present. Belarus seems not to show much interest in NATO for the time being, and the Ukraine apparently sees its future rather in an independent position, guaranteed by treaty arrangements with both NATO and Russia.
The Baltic states, on the other hand, make it clear that -- not only geographically, but also through their history and culture -- they consider themselves to be part of the West and, therefore, have an eminent interest in joining NATO. We all know that they were independent states before the war and the Soviet Union annexed them by force on the basis of the criminal Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. I fail to understand why these three free countries should not be offered membership as soon as possible, especially as they are working hard to be ready for it. Yielding to some geopolitical or geostrategic interests of Russia, or perhaps merely to its concern for its prestige, would be the worst thing that the alliance could do in this respect. It would amount to returning to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact; to confirming its legitimacy; to recognizing Russia's right to surround itself with a cordon sanitaire, or with a sphere of its interests euphemistically called "near abroad"; in short, to rededicating ourselves to the old principle of dividing the world and nations irregardless of their will...
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you know, in the summer of 1991 Prague witnessed the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, a onetime instrument of Soviet hegemony over a large part of Europe. It is marvelous that a historic turn of events will now be completed when Prague -- not so long ago a city behind the Iron Curtain -- will host the next summit of NATO... The reasons why it is so substantial that the summit be held in Prague are much deeper and broader than the mere fact that Prague deserves to host such an event, or that it will be, for a few days, the focus of attention throughout the world.
To my mind, this choice is significant in multiple ways:
1) By holding its summit meeting in a new member country, the alliance clearly demonstrates that the allies do not see us merely as an imposed appendix, or as someone who was admitted rather out of politeness. On the contrary, I see it as a sign that -- I am now referring to all the three new members -- we are regarded as truly full-fledged, dependable, and trustworthy allies. Which is not only an honor but, first of all, a responsibility.
2) If the alliance, no more than two years after its first enlargement across the line of the former Iron Curtain, is determined to hold its next summit beyond that line it unequivocally indicates that it is truly serious about building a new world order and that, notwithstanding all the labor pains and problems, including the inevitable complications associated with the integration of countries that used to be part of a military pact of a completely different character, it has the courage to embark upon a new course. In short, in making this choice, the alliance has made it clear that it genuinely pursues a radical self-transformation and is becoming substantially different from the organization that it was in former times.
3) I cannot imagine a NATO summit being held in Prague without extending an invitation for other applicants to join the alliance. Holding the meeting in Prague indirectly signifies a commitment to continued enlargement and is yet another proof that the "open doors" principle is not merely an empty phrase.
4) I believe that if a NATO summit takes place for the first time in the territory of a former Soviet satellite, it will also be a clear message to Russia, which should read as follows: Our alliance, as a regional grouping, is prepared to pursue a multifaceted cooperation with Russia as with an equal partner. On the other hand, however, Russia must finally realize that NATO's mission poses no threat to it and that if NATO moves closer to Russia's borders, it brings closer stability, security, democracy, and an advanced political culture, which is obviously in Russia's essential interest...
The greatest amount of speculation inevitably surrounds the question of whom will the alliance actually admit. An assurance that their turn will come; that there are no hidden political considerations in this respect for the interests of any third party; and, that the alliance is not afraid of stepping further beyond its previous borders, should be given to all.
If our host country, Slovakia, is not afflicted by some tragic reversal of fortune, which I trust will not happen, I believe that it stands, together with Slovenia, a great chance of being offered membership in Prague. On behalf of the Czech Republic, I can responsibly say that we shall support such a step in every way... Our Bulgarian and Romanian friends are also in play, just as all the other remaining candidates [are]...
Many European countries, including the Czech Republic, now have -- for the first time in their history -- a real chance that their freedom is truly guaranteed through their voluntary affiliation with a firm alliance and their commitment to joint defense of shared values.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us use this chance! Thank you.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty