Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

French Open for Security Buffs France Hosts Yet Another European Conference, Hoping to Spark Bilaterals on Borders, Minorities

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

French Open for Security Buffs France Hosts Yet Another European Conference, Hoping to Spark Bilaterals on Borders, Minorities

Article excerpt

WITH the French Open tennis tournament in full swing this week, much of the world may be watching Paris with eyes darting back and forth across a red clay court. But something else will be going on in the French capital that officials here hope will play a role in ridding an unstable Europe of the kind of flash points that could lead to future Yugoslavias.

Foreign ministers and officials of more than 50 European countries, the United States, and Canada gather here May 26-27 for a conference on stability in Europe. "What, yet another?" would be a comprehensible response from anyone aware of the innumerable conferences and summits that have taken up the same subject recently.

But the French, who first proposed this particular security conference a year ago, insist this initiative is different and can play a positive and as-yet-untried role. "The essential idea is to clear the mines as much as possible from the construction site of the future Europe," a French diplomat says.

The two-day conference is supposed to be simply the stage-setter for a series of bilateral "preventive" negotiations between countries with disputes over borders or minority rights. On their own initiative, countries would agree to sit down with each other to settle disputes that risk blowing up. Then in early 1995, the same countries would gather again to sign a security "pact," which would consist of accords worked out during the negotiating period.

"We can't say beforehand how many sets of such bilateral talks will occur, because it will be up to the countries themselves to initiate them," the French diplomat says. "We {in the European Union} will be ready to advise and facilitate their discussions if we are asked, but the countries concerned will have to want to seize this opportunity."

The idea for such a European security pact originated with French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur shortly after he took office in April 1993. …

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