Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EC Seeks to Boost Role in Talks with Aid Offer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

EC Seeks to Boost Role in Talks with Aid Offer

Article excerpt

SMARTING at Western Europe's relegation from a once-central player in the Middle East to little more than an observer in the Mideast peace conference, the European Community will offer a "peace for economic development" proposal to reassert Europe's presence in the region.

The proposal, to be unveiled in the EC's address to the peace conference, draws from the Community's experience in using its regional development assistance to encourage peace in Central America, and in coordinating Western economic aid for Eastern Europe.

"There can only be an effective and durable peace in the region if there is stability, and for that to exist there must be steady and equitable economic development," says an EC spokesman.

The proposal points up the EC's reliance on its economic presence to counterbalance its underdeveloped political weight in the international arena. From the Gulf war to the Yugoslav crisis, the Community consistently uses its economic leverage.

The EC address will be delivered during the opening session by Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broeck. The Netherlands currently holds the EC's rotating six-month presidency. The EC plan will likely encourage a growing regional interdependence by sponsoring and guiding development projects, trade, and technological exchange.

The regional development plan, to which the Community would serve as guarantor and coordinator, was developed by EC Commissioner Abel Matutes, who oversees existing EC aid to the Middle East.

European officials appear resigned to Europe's peripheral role in the Madrid conference's three-day opening session. But Mr. Matutes advocates a dash by the EC to preside over multilateral regional development talks, if and when the conference process reaches that stage.

European countries have been little more than bystanders during recent months as the United States pushed, coaxed, and cajoled Israelis and Arabs into participating in the peace conference. …

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