1. Central, eastern and south-eastern Europe finds itself today at a crucial turning-point. On the one hand, the launch of the process of enlargement of the European Union (EU) and NATO accelerates the completion of the transition in countries of central Europe. On the other hand, the difficulties encountered in the peace process in Bosnia and the crisis in Kosovo show that risks to stability and security still exist. It is therefore up to all the democratic forces, and in the first place those of social democratic inspiration, to work towards implementing security and stability throughout the region as a condition for creating societies which are free, democratic, pluralistic, multi-ethnic and just.
2. Carrying out the Dayton Accords must continue to be a priority for the international community. The outcome of the recent elections and the formation of the Dodik government have opened up a new phase in the Republika Srpska. At the same time, we also witness the consolidation of stability in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are therefore greater possibilities to overcome the obstacles which still hinder the full application of the Dayton Accords. We appreciate and back all the efforts made by the UN High Representative Carlos Westendorp, and we believe that all useful actions must be pursued in order to proceed with:
- the return of refugees, as a condition which cannot be given up, in order to rebuild multi-ethnic Bosnia and re-establish the trust broken by war and ethnic cleansing;
- the strengthening of the common institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina;
- economic reconstruction, by re-confirming the aid and commitments of the international community in the Donor Conference on 7-8 May;
- the activity of the International Tribunal in The Hague, obtaining full and sincere cooperation from all states;
- the support for multi-ethnic parties, especially in the context of the September elections;
- the intensification of all forms of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious relations, based on equal opportunities for men and women in all domains of society.
The spirit of the Dayton Accords also requires that the integration of Eastern Slavonia within Croatia be carried out with full respect for the identity and rights of the Serb populations of those regions. The right of the Serbs, citizens of the Republic of Croatia, to return to their cities and places of origin should be assisted.
The presence of NATO peace-keeping troops in Bosnia has shown itself to be indispensable in order to stop the war and to consolidate peace. These tasks are not over and it is therefore essential for SFOR to remain in Bosnia, renewing its mandate, which will expire in June 1998. The current Train and Equip programmes, coordinated by NATO in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be directed towards their inclusion in the partnership for peace.
In order to secure a lasting peace, the inclusion of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Council of Europe and the opening of negotiations on a Cooperation Agreement with the EU should be encouraged.
The parliamentary elections of September 1998 will represent a crucial step in consolidating the peace process and strengthening the institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The international community must therefore feel committed to backing the OSCE in the preparation of these elections, and in efforts to develop new electoral laws which would strengthen multi-ethnicity and democracy. As parties of the Socialist International, we wish to express all our support to the SD BiH and the SDP BiH and to the other forces of progressive inspiration in each entity and we hope that the elections will be the opportunity for establishing ever closer relations between all the parties which are fighting for a Bosnia which is united, independent, free, democratic and multi-ethnic.
3. We express our gravest concern over the developments in Kosovo and we condemn any instances of abuse of power or violence which have taken place during these weeks.
We are aware that the Kosovo crisis could produce explosions throughout the region.
As the Contact Group and the EU have indicated, it is absolutely essential that the Belgrade authorities and the representatives of the Albanian community in Kosovo initiate a dialogue without preconditions. It is therefore our hope that the representative of the OSCE, Felipe González, can begin his activities, as his actions could favour the opening of a dialogue and then accompany its evolution.
We welcome the first meeting between president Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova and hope that the dialogue will continue.
The agreement on the start of a new school year for Albanian students in the schooling system, signed thanks to the assistance given by the community of S. Egidio, shows that a dialogue can be implemented. Engaging in a true and sincere dialogue would also enable the FRY to begin its re-integration into international institutions.
We also wish that the elections in Montenegro may strengthen the democratic political forces which are struggling for political and economic reforms.
The start of a dialogue in Kosovo could also have a positive impact on the process of reaching a just solution to the minority problems throughout the region. The Socialist International will send a mission to the region to help overcome the tensions and contribute to the search for political solutions.
4. Ensuring stability in the Balkans requires continued assistance to Albania in its return to a condition of political and economic normality. We appreciate the efforts made by the Albanian Government and we appeal to all the political forces, both in government and in opposition, to take positions which are consistent with the actual strengthening of democracy in Albania.
Guaranteeing stability in FYROM is of no less importance, a country where the governing coalition also includes the main Albanian party. The Unpredep mission has played an important role, and with the termination of its mandate there is the need to guarantee, in any event, an international presence which will ensure the same goals of maintaining peace and stability.
5. The launch of the enlargement process of the European Union is a crucial step of enormous value and significance for the entire continent. After centuries of wars, division and conflicts, for the first time in its history Europe has the chance to unify based on pacific means and on the consensus of its nations and its peoples. We welcome the steps made by the countries of central Europe towards the stabilisation and modernisation of their economies, and the development of democratic institutions and human and social rights, as preconditions for the start of negotiations. We welcome with satisfaction the start of negotiations with Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary, and we are committed to supporting their integration. We also hope that Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia will be able to start their negotiations in the near future.
In any event, it is the very objective of stability and peace which lies behind the enlargement of the EU which requires a cohesion and solidarity among all the candidate countries in central Europe. The instruments set forth in the European Council in Luxembourg - the European Conference, the Forum of 15 + 11, the Accession Partnerships for each candidate - should aim at avoiding feelings of frustration or isolation in any given country. To the contrary, they should guarantee that all candidates, whatever their timing for accession, all feel part of the process of enlargement.
We are convinced that anchoring Turkey strongly to Europe would favour the strengthening of democracy in that country, and would also favour greater stability in the Balkans and in the Caucasian and Eurasian regions.
We welcome, too, the start of negotiations for Cyprus to join the EU and we hope that the prospect of this will allow the solution of the political problem on the island in accordance with the decisions of the United Nations.
6. NATO enlargement must ensure greater stability and security. For this reason, while we welcome the integration of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, we reaffirm the need for the Atlantic Alliance to keep its doors open to other countries which share the values and objectives of a new European security. At the same time, NATO must continue to exercise its role and function as a stabilising factor, both by reinforcing the instruments of cooperation - the Partnership for Peace, and Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council - and by guaranteeing peace through its presence where, as in Bosnia, it remains threatened with the risk of bloody conflict.
The Baltic Security Charter, recently signed by the Baltic countries with the United States, represents a contribution to stability and to the definition of a new European security architecture.
7. This new security architecture requires that all the continental and regional forms of cooperation be reinforced.
The OSCE is asked to play a crucial role in conflict-prevention, in favouring consensual solutions and in aiding in the post-conflict peace-building process.
It is therefore useful to strengthen the OSCE's activities and missions.
Regional cooperation institutions - such as the Central European Initiative, the Baltic Sea Cooperation Council, the Black Sea Council and the South Eastern Cooperation Initiative - can all be important instruments in increasing cooperation and interdependence among neighbouring countries and in affirming the idea of a "common future" to be built together.
8. The prospects for Russia's political and economic evolution are crucial for the future of Europe. The last year has seen an economic development which is more solid and positive than in the past, although strong social inequalities and territorial imbalances continue to persist. On a political level as well, we have witnessed a consolidation of the democratic institutions, albeit with a continued weakness of the political parties. This process is not however near completion. It is therefore necessary that the international community, starting with the EU, confirm the commitments it has taken with regard to Russia and continue carrying out a full cooperation in all areas.
9. The transition in Ukraine continues to be very difficult. The recent electoral results, together with the economic difficulties, risk further blocking the indispensable economic and political reforms. We express our preoccupation with the conflict which has arisen, following the elections, between the government authorities and a number of representatives of the opposition who are mayors of large cities. This is precisely why it is necessary that the international community manifest its active commitment in favouring and backing those forces which want to continue on the road of democracy.
As we defend the principles of democracy and human rights we support dialogue between the different political forces in Belarus as the only way out of the present situation.
The situation in the Caucasus, where there are unresolved ethnic and cross-border tensions, also continues to be cause for concern. The conflicts require political solutions based on consensus and on a recognition of the territorial integrity of each state. All forms of terrorism and violence must be refused. A political initiative, starting with the OSCE, is urgent in order to promote negotiations between the parties concerned.
10. The events in eastern Europe have shown the need for the presence and action of the parties of social democratic inspiration. Since 1989, social democratic parties have been or are in government in 12 countries of the region. It is all the more significant that it is precisely these countries which have completed their transition with the most remarkable results.
The Socialist International, which today has 26 member parties in 20 countries throughout the region, considers the area's stability and security as a strategic priority, and intends to take all the necessary actions aimed at ensuring peace and prosperity in every country in the region.