EC Joins Other Nations in Recognizing Baltics
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Community joined a host of other nations today by formally recognizing the independence of the Baltic states.
The unanimous decision regarding the republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia was taken at a special meeting of EC foreign ministers, according to one of the officials, Mark Eyskens of Belgium.
He said the ministers also agreed to meet in Brussels next week with their colleagues from the Baltic states, which have been under Soviet control for 50 years. The Baltics’ independence drives were given a tremendous boost by the failed coup in the Soviet Union last week and the subsequent purge of Communist hard-liners who insisted that the nation remain intact at all costs.
The EC leaders will meet in The Hague next month to discuss the disintegration of the Soviet Union, where Moldavia today became the seventh republic to declare independence from Moscow.
Eyskens said all EC states would be sending envoys to the Baltic republics in a matter of days.
The EC vote on the Baltics came shortly after President Mikhail S. Gorbachev appealed to Soviet lawmakers in Moscow to work together to hold the nation together, and said he may resign if some form of union is not preserved.
After last week’s abortive coup, Gorbachev said the 15 Soviet republics should be given the right to negotiate for independence.
Even before the vote, some European Community members took steps to forge diplomatic ties with the Baltics.
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of Germany said his nation had a ″historical reponsibility to the Baltic states.″ The Soviet Union forcibly annexed the Baltics under a 1939 pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Denmark sent Otto Borch to Latvia on Monday as the first ambassador to the Baltic states in 50 years.
″It’s not important to be the first, but it is important to come as quickly as possible,″ Borch said before arriving in Latvia, where he was mobbed by residents who gathered up the few Danish flags they could find.
The EC members are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Britain, Spain and Portugal.
Sweden, one of the few Western nations that recognized Moscow’s takeover of the Baltics, declared today the Baltic states were sovereign and said Swedish embassies will be established in the three republics on Thursday.
Iceland on Monday was the first nation to sign diplomatic agreements with the Baltics, whose independence drives surged forward following last week’s failed coup and the purge of hard-liners opposed to secession.
Norway, meanwhile, is sending Ambassador Kjell Colding to the Baltics to set up embassies, Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg said today after the signing ceremony in Oslo.
Stoltenberg said Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland would suggest trade relations be opened between the Baltics and the European Free Trade Association - Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Austria.
After meeting with Brundtland, the Baltic foreign ministers flew to Germany.
″The beast is still fighting for its life in Moscow and we must be prepared to face new coup attempts and be ready to defend democracy,″ Estonian Foreign Minister Lennart Meri said.
″Therefore, it’s important to solve the question of Soviet military bases in the Baltics as soon as possible. When that is done, we can hope for a lasting and durable peace.″
Finland says it will do so after the Baltic leaders reach an agreement with the Soviet government.
President Bush has adopted a similar wait-and-see policy.
Australia formally recognized Baltic independence today and said it will establish full diplomatic relations.
Canada’s Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said Monday his government had begun the process of establishing diplomatic relations, and Argentina said it was doing the same. Bulgaria on Monday became the first former Soviet bloc country to recognize Baltic independence.
Hungary, Belgium and France sent diplomats to the Baltics to make arrangements for re-establishing relations.