Meeting of the Socialist International Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, Warsaw, Poland

17-18 September 1999

A meeting of the Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, was held in Warsaw on 17-18 September where representatives of parties from the region and beyond gathered to discuss the perspectives for peace and stability in South Eastern Europe, to assess the situation in Russia and to review the national situations of countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

A minute's silence was held in memory of Yannos Kranidiotis, Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece, who tragically died days before. The Committee paid tribute to his tireless work for Greece, the countries in Central and Eastern Europe and within the International.

Hosted by the Democratic Left Alliance, SLD, and the Union of Labour, UP, the meeting was opened by the Secretary General Luis Ayala who remembered the long history of relations with Poland and the International's member parties there through a period of rapidly changing events. The gathering afforded the opportunity, he said, to consider not only the immediate concerns in the region but also "to charter the course" for what social democracy could do in the times ahead, particularly in that part of the world.

Introducing the debate on the situation in the Balkans after events in Kosovo, Co-Chair of the Committee, Piero Fassino, Minister of Foreign Trade, Democrats of the Left, DS, Italy, emphasised that the meeting formed part of the ongoing discussions of the Committee to arrive at a "stable, effective and lasting solution", and he referred to previous SICEE meetings held in Budapest, Prague, Moscow, Bratislava, Sarajevo, Geneva, Bucharest and Rome. The political stabilisation of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was now the key responsibility for the international community, he noted.

SICEE Co-Chair, László Kovács, leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party, MSzP, emphasised the urgency of the continuing humanitarian catastrophe. In the long-term, he argued, while parties in government could certainly contribute to the first stages of the Stability Pact aimed at strengthening security in the region, social democratic parties in opposition should also take their share of responsibility with bilateral initiatives inside the region: "The International has to help democratic parties with our own experiences of peaceful transition", he declared.

Contributions on the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis, were heard from the countries directly affected and the neighbouring countries with concrete experience of the crisis and its after effects, including Albania, FRY Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

The exchanges of the Committee resulted in the 'Warsaw Declaration' which underlined the extraordinary importance of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 'when the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe freed themselves from the oppressive Communist regimes' and reaffirmed 'the commitment of the Socialist International and its parties to support in each country of the region the realisation of democratic politics, of the social market economy and of human rights for all individuals, communities and peoples'.

Turning to relations between the European Union and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, SICEE highlighted the progress made in these countries and reaffirmed its belief that the enlargement of the European Union had a strategic role in ensuring the security, stability and prosperity of the whole of Europe, signalling its satisfaction at the progress of the EU's current enlargement negotiations and making clear its hope for a strengthening of the relations between the EU and the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe which had expressed their will to join the EU.

With regard to the events in Russia, following reports from guests from the country, the Declaration expressed concern at the political instability, institutional uncertainty and corruption there and the Committee reaffirmed its belief that securing truly democratic institutions in Russia today, in part through the EU Action Plan, remained an essential priority.

The Declaration addressed the situation in the Balkans in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis and reaffirmed the belief that stability and security were only possible there if all ethnic and religious groups were respected. In order to ensure stability in the region the Committee took note of the role of the United Nations, OSCE and KFOR and restated its belief that the integration of the Balkans into the European Union was essential. The Declaration emphasised the urgent need to bring about a real democracy in Serbia, by supporting the democratic forces of the political and civil opposition and assisting them in overcoming their divisions. Consequently SI member parties were called on 'to provide practical political assistance to all democratic forces, to organise economic and political links between local communities and to assist in the construction of an effective civil society and of a free media able to contribute to the building of a true democracy'. Proposals were made to send a fact-finding mission to FRY and to sponsor training courses for young politicians.

The Committee then received reports on national situations. Mirjana Feric-Vac, Social Democratic Party, SDP, Croatia, described the situation in the run up to elections there and the prospects for social democrats to make advances, having already gained significant regional government experience.

Nano Ruzin, Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, SDUM, informed the Committee on the situation in his country with presidential elections due at the end of October.

Leszek Miller reported on the establishment of the Democratic Left Alliance, which the Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland, SdRP, had played an active part in developing, and which will hold its first Congress in December. Marek Pol, Union of Labour, UP, reiterated the clear alternatives and options presented by the opposition parties currently in Poland.

László Kovács reported on the concentration of power and the curtailment of the role of parliament since the rightwing parties won elections in 1998 in Hungary. The X Anniversary Congress in October of his party would be, he asserted, an opportunity to consider their role in the transition of their country, but also the chance to elaborate a new constitution for a modern European party.

Representatives of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party, BSDP, and of the European Left reported on the situation in Bulgaria before the local elections due in mid-October and on the cooperation agreement signed by social democratic forces there.

Valiantisin Askirka, Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), BSDP, gave a detailed account of events in Belarus and called for international solidarity.

Participants representing the Socialist Party of Albania, PSA, and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, reviewed the many advances that the social democratic coalition government had made in Albania.

Mario Nalpatian, ARF Armenian Socialist Party, spoke of the recent elections in his country and of the developments and work ahead for the government.

The Committee also adopted a resolution on the Caucasus which recognised the positive changes towards the consolidation of democracy in the South Caucasian republics but also outlined proposals, to be presented to the XXI Congress, for furthering democracy and resolving ethnic conflicts in the region.