Presidents Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, Petru Lucinschi of Moldova, and Emil Constantinescu of Romania conferred on July 3-4 in the Ukrainian city of Izmail, situated on the Danube near the point where the three countries’ borders intersect. The city and surrounding area — in multiethnic southern Bessarabia — have changed hands repeatedly during modern history.
The three presidents signed a joint declaration and documents launching 11 initiatives. They include: instituting regular meetings of the three countries’ presidents at least once a year, and periodic meetings of the prime ministers and foreign ministers; coordination and mutual support in the three countries’ relations with European institutions; mutual exchanges of information regarding the protection of ethnic minority rights; a free economic zone, centered on the Danubian ports Reni (Ukraine), Giurgiulesti (Moldova), and Galati (Romania); construction of additional border-crossing points and simplification of border-crossing procedures; and cooperation in combating cross-border crime on the state-to-state and region-to-region level.
The three presidents also agreed to create a Lower Danube Euroregion and an Upper Prut Euroregion, each to encompass the border districts of the three countries. The Upper Prut region is to center on the once-Austrian area of Bukovina, which is currently divided between Ukraine and Romania. The presidents will jointly approach European and international organizations to help fund projects within these Euroregions. In this connection, they also agreed to create a German-Ukrainian-Romanian university in Bukovina’s capital, Chernivtsy/Cernauti, with Austrian and German assistance. The city, known as Czernowitz under Austrian rule until 1918, was the site of Europe’s easternmost German university.
The three presidents observed that their countries’ decision to cooperate "in a region considered until recently a potential source of conflict reflects our recognition of the priority of European values." U.S. vice-president Al Gore, co-chairman with Kuchma of the U.S.-Ukrainian interstate cooperation commission (Kuchma-Gore commission), telephoned Kuchma in Izmail to congratulate the three leaders. Gore stated that the Izmail meeting and its decisions represent not only an initiative for functional cooperation among neighbors, but also "a significant contribution to European security." (Western, Ukrainian, Moldovan agencies, July 3-5)