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Havel Proposes Creation of New European Security Commission

April 9, 1990

BRATISLAVA, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ In a speech to a six-nation conference on Central Europe today, President Vaclav Havel proposed creation of a new security commission that would gradually replace NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

″It is impossible to return to the Europe of the past″ and therefore a timetable should be agreed to shape the Europe of the future, Havel said in outlining his prescription for curbing the continent’s historic conflicts.

The dissident playwright turned president suggested the Bratislava conference find ways to ″build a solid wall against all expressions of nationalism and chauvinism,″ said his spokesman, Michael Zantovsky.

The unique day-long meeting gathered representatives of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, with Austria, Italy and Hungary attending as observers. It seemed unlikely to reach any decisions on its broad agenda, partly because Hungary was represented by officials of the reformed Communist leadership that was soundly defeated in Sunday’s free elections.

Jozsef Antall, the leader of the victorious Hungarian Democratic Forum and the likely new premier of Hungary, was invited but sent the party’s vice president, Ferenc Kulin, Hungarian officials said.

Outlining 10 questions to the closed-door meeting, Havel invited consideration of a proposal to create a new all-European Security Commission this year, Zantovsky told reporters.

The idea was first outlined by Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier at a Warsaw Pact meeting in Prague on March 17, when the Czechoslovaks said it drew a mixed response, the coolest reaction coming from the Soviets.

Both superpowers have reacted somewhat coldly to the insistence by Havel and Dienstbier that Europe’s military blocs are outdated and should be disbanded.

Czechoslovakia wants to use the 35-nation Helsinki process, involving the United States, Canada and all European nations except Albania, as the basis for the new Security Commission, and for new agreements to preserve peace on the world’s most heavily armed continent.

Havel, who called today’s conference for Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to ponder cooperation in their ″return to Europe,″ proposed the three pool efforts to join the 12-nation European Economic Community.

He also said they should take a joint stand on the Warsaw Pact and Soviet economic bloc, Comecon.

All three countries are emerging from more than four decades of Soviet domination and Communist rule. Uniting could help them combat the influence likely to be wielded by a united Germany.

However, such cooperation could be marred both by conflicting interests such as those of debt-ridden Poland and relatively wealthy Czechoslovakia, and by the ethnic conflicts that have clouded Eastern Europe’s democratic reforms.

Those conflicts could threaten European peace, as they did between the two World Wars and for centuries before.

Eastern Europe’s worst ethnic conflict currently is the tension between the Hungarian minority and Romanians in Transylvania, where an explosion of strife last month left at least six people dead in Tirgu Mures.

The victory of the center-right Democratic Forum in Sunday’s Hungarian elections is likely also to keep the fate of the Hungarian minorities in Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia high on Budapest’s diplomatic agenda.

The outgoing Socialist government in Hungary already has asked Prague to improve the rights of the 500,000 Hungarians living in Slovakia. Foreign Ministry sources suggested demands for Hungarian-language schools would be granted if matched by similar rights for the tiny Slovak minority in Hungary.

In pushing their agenda for a new Europe, Havel and Dienstbier have been able to draw on their years-long contacts with former Solidarity activists now wielding power in Poland, and to a lesser extent on ties to one-time dissidents in Hungary.