On May 14-15, Ukraine hosted for the first time a summit of Central European countries. Presidents Roman Herzog of Germany, Thomas Klestil of Austria, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, Arpad Goencz of Hungary, Milan Kucan of Slovenia, Emil Constantinescu of Romania and Petar Stoianov of Bulgaria joined Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma for the summit in Lviv. The event was meant to underscore Ukraine’s European identity and to acknowledge the Ukrainian government’s striving for close relations with Western Europe and NATO in spite of manifold internal and external obstacles. Almost all of the countries that were represented in Lviv are members, fast-track candidates, or declared aspirants to membership of the European Union and NATO.
The summit offered Ukraine an opportunity to promote multilateral cooperation projects and to caution against a continental redivision which would leave the European Union (EU) and NATO Europe on one side and Ukraine on the other side. Kyiv seeks to turn the EU’s and NATO’s limited enlargement into an opportunity for closer relations with Ukraine’s Western neighbors and the Euroatlantic world. Accordingly, Kuchma asked the eight presidents to:
–support Ukraine’s goal of signing an association agreement with the EU;
–introduce nondiscriminatory visa procedures for Ukrainian citizens, exempting them at least in part from the EU’s restrictions on citizens of non-EU countries;
–give favorable consideration to the planned Odessa-Brody-Gdansk pipeline for transporting Caspian oil to Central and Western Europe; and
–commission Ukrainian military plants to modernize Soviet-era heavy weaponry in the inventories of NATO’s new member countries.
Central European summits–of which this was the sixth–are held as a rule in noncapital cities whose cultural legacy and architecture reflect a common European and specifically Central European heritage. Lviv boasts many historical relics and architectural monuments of Polish and Austrian origin. This long-contested city, furthermore, has become a focus of the Ukrainian-Polish reconciliation and, in a larger sense, of the overcoming of historic conflicts among Central European nations in the post-Soviet era (Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), May 14, 17; UNIAN, May 15).–VS
UKRAINE: PRESIDENTIAL RACE STARTED.