THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||April 25, 1999|
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
International Trade Center
11:55 A.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, I just want togive you a few minutes on this meeting of the Council with the sevenneighboring states.
It was an extremely substantive exchange. The Presidentled off -- you have the transcript of his remarks, they're on therecord -- and emphasized that we must prevail in Kosovo, strengthenefforts to support economic development and deeper democracy, ethnicand religious tolerance and regional integration, and then work withthe nations of the region to build cooperation across borders.
That set the stage for what was a series of statementsby the seven guests, the seven neighboring states, which included, inthis case, Bosnia and Croatia, who are not members of the Partnershipfor Peace, but were involved in this particular meeting at theforeign minister level.
Everybody addressed both the challenges of dealing withthe immediate crisis and then the kind of post-conflictreconstruction challenge, with great stress, of course, on mobilizingall necessary resources to deal with the refugees. Several of thefrontline line states emphasized the need for some burden-sharinghere, not least the Macedonians who feel that they're close to, ifnot beyond, the breaking point in terms of their capacity to absorbrefugees. Several of the other neighboring states offered to dotheir part with the refugees, including the Slovenes, the Hungariansas an ally, and others. I wasn't keeping a careful book.
The Greeks are proposing to host a humanitarianconference in Athens in the coming days to try to help further cometo grips with the refugee and humanitarian crisis. But I think theaccent in the discussions was on the post-conflict challenge.Everybody agreed NATO must prevail. And then after we do, we need tohave a comprehensive strategy for Southeastern Europe.
Several countries called for something on the scale ofthe Marshall Plan. Both the neighboring states and many of theallies stressed the same point that Southeastern Europe needs to bebrought into the peace and prosperity that the rest of Europe enjoys.The Bulgarian pointed out that for Serbia to ultimatelychoose democracy, it has to see that democracy works in theneighboring states, and ultimately, democracy and prosperity needto go hand in hand.
So there were a lot of specific suggestions -- effortsto stimulate investment, to give them relief from debt servicing.The Bosnian foreign minister suggested a free trade area for theregion; more assistance from the international financialinstitutions efforts to help build democracy, civil society;promote institution-building. The Bulgarian suggested a code of-- that was the Bosnian -- a code of human rights and minorityrights. There was emphasis on the need to help with Montenegro.I'm just trying to think if there was anything else.
On the institutional side, there was agreement thatthis is a test that goes beyond NATO, obviously. It's amulti-institutional challenge -- the European Union, the OSCE,the G-8 all need to play their part.
One amusing note, was President Chirac sought tosuggest that this was a NATO-EU meeting, rather than a NATOmeeting. That was, I think, a surprise to the Chancellor ofGermany, as the EU presidency.
But I think, from our perspective, we thought it wasvery productive. We've been advocating -- if you recallPresident Clinton's speech in San Francisco about a week ago,where he laid out his concept for a Southeast European strategy.We heard a lot of echoes of the same themes, and a Romaniansuggestion that at the next summit meeting of the U.S. and theEuropean Union, and at the next G-8 Summit, there be a real focuson Southeastern Europe. He got a generally positive responsefrom everybody.
Tony Blair summed up the discussion as the lastspeaker, or the next to the last speaker -- saying that we bothare grateful to the countries in the countries in the region forsupporting NATO, and we have an obligation now to them not onlyto see them through the crisis, assure their security, but workto help with the rebuilding of the region. And that was verymuch consistent with the President's opening remarks as well.
Q -- talk about a Marshall Plan include thepossibility of redrawing borders?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. In fact, therewere many who emphasized the need to respect borders and focus onerasing the significance of borders the way that they've beenerased in Western Europe. The Bulgarian evoked that theme, thatwe need to have a region which is integrated through economiccooperation so that the international borders cease to be linesof discord.
Q And what about this German plan, and plans for aconference on it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The Germansintroduced about three weeks ago what they called a stabilitypact for Southeastern Europe, which is very much in the same veinas U.S. ideas. It would involve roles for the European Union,for NATO, for the OSCE, dealing with the different dimensions --NATO dealing with the security, EU with the economic, OSCE withthe kind of political-civil society aspects of this.
We certainly want to work with the European Union tofigure out a way to bring this all together and get it on theroad. There's a lot of good ideas out there. The Germans haveproposed a conference to talk about the stability pact with theregional states, and the key is now to sort of bring these ideasinto some coherent game plan and launch.
NATO launched sort of its small piece of it in thecommunique yesterday by establishing a forum. So this group willnow become a standing entity -- this 19 plus 7 group -- meetingregularly in Brussels to develop the security side of this. Butit clearly is something that the EU has a huge role to play in,as does OSCE. This is something that the United States has seenall along as important for these institutions to cooperate morewith one another and reinforce each other.
Q Are there any differences over the German planthat you -- that the Americans have?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think only in --maybe on some details, and exactly how the integration of thedifferent institutions will take place. The German proposal putsthe OSCE in the kind of central coordinating role. PresidentChirac supported that today. We don't necessarily disagree, butwe need to sit down and figure this out and come to a definiteagreement on making this work -- going from the theory to thepractice.
Q And do you support having a conference in the nearfuture? What's happening with that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think, in principle-- I'm not sure what this German-proposed conference will involvein terms of participation, but we certainly want to engage -- getpeople from the different countries and institutions around thesame table and put this plan into action.
Q Do you have anything solid yet on how the oilembargo is going to work -- the details of that yet?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think I saw avery encouraging comment by the French Defense Ministerconfirming that France now accepts and is supportive of what wecall a visit and search regime. And so, yesterday, in theevening, the decision was finalized within NATO to instruct themilitary authorities to put the preparations for such a regimeinto place. So we think that in the coming days, this actuallywill be implemented, and taking into account different aspects,including the desire not to overly harm Montenegro's overalleconomy, but at the same time to staunch the flow of oil toSerbia.
Q I'm sorry -- what you think will be implemented incoming days is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Is a visit and searchregime -- what we had proposed over a week ago at NATO. It nowhas found allied consensus and the military is going to put --
Q Can you tell us a little bit of what that means?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. It means thatNATO ships will be instructed to stop cargo ships destined forYugoslav ports, and if they are carrying what we consider to bewar material, to divert them or ask them to turn back. But Iwould leave it to the NATO spokesman to explain this in detail.Since it isn't quite finished yet, I don't want to get ahead ofthe detailed concept of operations, which is being finalized.
THE PRESS: Thank you.