Wealthy Seven to Ship Surpluses to Food-Short Poland
PARIS (AP) _ Poland will receive massive shipments of foodstuffs in a campaign approved Saturday by leaders of the seven wealthiest democracies in recognition of Warsaw’s efforts at reform.
Officials say the foodlift, the first definitive action endorsed Saturday by the economic summit, could start within two weeks. The leaders of the seven nations also will convene an international conference within a few weeks to coordinate aid to Hungary and Poland.
The food aid is the first joint gesture by the world’s wealthiest democracies toward a socialist country in response to its reform movement, though several Western nations have already forgiven or rescheduled hard- currency debts to ease Warsaw’s financial burdens.
Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski had appealed to the Paris summit leaders to take immediate action to prevent a worsening of Poland’s economic crisis, and suggested food credits and debt rescheduling as ways of lessening the burden.
European nations are currently warehousing surplus stocks of meat, sugar, grain and some dairy products that could ease the crisis and diversify the diets of Poles afflicted by bad harvests and a cumbersome distribution system.
Claus Ehlermann, spokesman for the European Economic Community, said officials within his organization took the summit statement on food aid for Poland as a mandate to take stock of the specific items available, what is needed by the Poles and to determine what other governments outside the 12- nation community might be willing to contribute.
″The food aid coordination will move very quickly, maybe as soon as next week,″ Ehlermann said.
Asked how long it would take to actually deliver food to Poland, Ehlermann said the relief effort could be under way within two weeks. He pointed out the EEC’s experience in orchestrating urgent aid to Ethiopia in past years.
″We’re not sure what volume they have in mind,″ the EEC spokesman said of the summit initiative.
Ehlermann said grain and meat are in good supply in EEC surplus warehouses, but that milk powder and butter were insufficient to meet a huge demand.
At the urging of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the seven leaders included in their political communique the call for urgent action to supply Poles with foods in chronic shortage there.
At President Bush’s behest, the statement broadened the planned effort to ″concerted effort for reform″ across the board. And the conference was opened to ″all interested countries,″ rather than simply the seven-nation family of the summit participants.
″In my opinion, at least since the visit of President Bush to Hungary and Poland, we see a more positive approach by the seven to help these countries help themselves,″ observed West German Foreign Ministry spokesman Hanns Schumacher. ″There had previously been a lot of mistrust of the German position.″
Bush visited those countries en route to Paris and praised the Warsaw and Budapest governments for their efforts toward an improved world political climate and protection of human rights.