No. 3 - Jun. 1992
Vol. 40 - pp. 23-27
NEW REGIONAL COOPERATION INITIATIVES
of NATO's Economics Directorate
There is a remarkable correlation between the growth
of democratization movements in Central and Eastern Europe (C+EE) and
the proliferation of new ideas for multilateral cooperation. As the centrally
planned economies proved unsuccessful and the former communist countries
announced their commitment to the market system, cooperation initiatives
between East and West European countries multiplied.
The European Community continues to be the main
focus of attention. The new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe
have hurried to join the already long waiting list for membership, in
open competition with even more new applicants from the West. At the same
time, they have also begun to participate in several newly emerging regional
cooperation initiatives. Apparently, in contrast with what has been suggested
in certain West European capitals about the alternative nature of such
new initiatives, they do not see regional cooperation as a competitive
structure to replace their plea for EC membership in the long-run. In
fact, it can be argued that overlapping regional cooperation schemes may
serve pan-European integration by complementing the EC, while C+EE countries
prepare the necessary and sufficient conditions required for EC membership.
Regional cooperation schemes are not new in Europe.
One can recall the Nordic Council, as well as newly-revived Baltic cooperation.
The countries along the River Danube cooperate under the Danube Commission
for the regulation of navigation on the river. Attemptsto establish multilateral
cooperation in the Balkans should also be noted. Nevertheless, incompatible
East and West European socio-political systems in the past have hampered
the development of such schemes. As the systemic differences have been
reduced, however, three new organizations have appeared which deserve
attention here, namely, the Hexagonal (soon to be renamed the Central
European Initiative), the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Region (BECR)
and the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
The origin of the Hexagonal initiative dates back
to a series of close contacts between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia.
It was formalised at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of these four
countries on 11 November 1989 in Budapest. The joint declaration released
at the end of the meeting established the Quadrilateral Initiative, the
main aims of which were stated as improving the political atmosphere in
Europe, strengthening the CSCE process and promoting the greater unity
of Europe. The Foreign Ministers also declared their belief that "the
development of sub-regional, regional and inter-regional cooperation could
significantly contribute to the gradual creation of a common economic
area on our continent". (1)
The Quadrilateral Initiative was transformed into
a five member cooperation scheme in 1990, with the accession of Czechoslovakia,
and its name was changed to the Pentagonal Initiative. On 1 August of
that year, the group held its first summit meeting in Venice, resulting
in the release of two important political documents. In the first, the
Pentagonal Initiative was presented as "a new form of cooperation for
promoting joint efforts, taking into consideration the emergence of a
new era in Europe" and as "a component of a much broader European architecture".
(2) The second document was the message
of the five Prime Ministers to the members of the CSCE in which the view
that regional cooperation could play a vital role for the future architecture
of Europe was explicitly emphasized.
Poland became the sixth member of the Initiative
at its second summit meeting, which took place in Dubrovnik on 27 July
1991, with a further change of name to Hexagonal. But the Yugoslav presidency
of the Initiative at that time was prevented from functioning efficiently
by civil war in Yugoslavia which also had a negative impact on various
projects. On 30 November 1991, the Foreign Ministers of the member countries,
except Yugoslavia, met in Venice and agreed that the presidency should
be shifted, effective 1 January, 1992, to Austria. The Hexagonal held
its first Foreign Ministers' meeting under the Austrian presidency in
Klagenfurt on 21 March this year and decided to recommend to the Prime
Ministers that it be renamed the Central European Initiative, in order
to better expressits regional character. A meeting of Prime Ministers
is to take place later this year, at which time Slovenia and Croatia are
alsoexpected to become new members. With a history of slightly less than
three years, the Hexagonal has ambitiously embarked upon 119 projects
in areas such as culture, energy, the environment, information, science
and technology, telecommunications, transport, etc., of which fifteen
are already completed. Although the Hexagonal has been successful in accelerating
the implementation of already existing inter-governmental projects between
the member countries, the recent situation in the Balkans has had an adverse
effect on this process.
Black Sea Economic Cooperation
Another new initiative came from Turkey, namely the
Black Sea Economic Cooperation Region (BECR), embracing Bulgaria, Romania,
Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The declaration
on the establishment of the BECR was initialled in Istanbul by the Foreign
Ministers, or Deputy Foreign Ministers, of these nine countries on 3 February
1992. This declaration is tentatively scheduled to be signed by Heads of
State or Government this summer. Meanwhile, Greece and Yugoslavia, who had
participated in the previous meetings as observers, have been invited to
make their applications for membership as founder states.
The BECR is largely inspired by recent developments
in Europe aimed at the establishment of a new European architecture. The
project is neither presented as an alternative to the European Community,
nor is it believed that it will become an impediment to EC membership
for its individual member states. The main motivation is to create a regional
economic cooperation scheme between nine countries which would contribute
to political stability, economic development and (especially in the case
of former Warsaw Pact members) to the transition to market economies.
The complementary nature of the project with the all-European integration
process is explicitly expressed. The participating states have therefore
declared their intention to develop economic co-operation as a contribution
"to the CSCE process, to the establishment of a Europe-wide economic area,
as well as to the achievement of a higher degree of integrat ion into
the world economy". (3) Aiming to increase
the free circulation of people, goods, services and capital between its
members, the BECR differs slightly from the Hexagonal initiative in that
the BECR includes both inter-governmental and non-governmental cooperation.
As far as the inter-governmental aspect is concerned,
the states declare their readiness to cooperate in fields such as transport,
communications, informatics, mining and processing of mineral raw materials,
energy, the environment, tourism, agriculture and agro-industries and
many others, and to prepare the necessary infrastructure. They also plan
to exchange economic and commercial information, including statistics.
But the distinct characteristic of the BECR is
its emphasis on non-governmental cooperation. In this context, the participating
states are seen as agents providing favourable business conditions for
enterprises, firms and individual entrepreneurs in their respective countries.
Appropriate conditions will thus be established for investment, capital
flows and industrial cooperation. The states are also to encourage the
conclusion of financial arrangements at governmental and non-governmental
level and will consider the possibilities of establishing a Black Sea
Foreign Trade and Investment Bank.
The BECR is regarded with some caution in certain
circles, as if it were destined to get stuck with similar problems as
the Hexagonal, for it envisages cooperation in an area marked by local
conflicts or potential hot spots. The situation in the Caucasus, Moldova,
in the Balkan peninsula, as well as the tense relationship between Russia
and the Ukraine, may justify this view to a certain extent. Yet the economic
inter-dependence of the former CMEA (4)
members in the region and of the members of the Commonwealth of Independent
States (CIS) suggest that those conflicts may eventually subside or remain
merely political, without drastically hampering the rational and functional
development of economic, commercial and financial ties. The need to develop
sound economic links with the West, through the Western members of the
BECR, is also an essential priority for such countries. This may also
act as a catalyst for stabilization.
Council of the Baltic Sea States
The newest among the three regional cooperation initiatives
under study here is the Council of the Baltic Sea States, encompassing ten
countries in the Baltic area, namely Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia,
Poland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Foreign Ministers
of these countries, after a meeting in Copenhagen on 5-6 March 1992, declared
the establishment of this new cooperation zone, which is reminiscent of
the ancient Hanseatic League. Despite the political differences between
countries of the region, such as those between Poland and Lithuania or between
Russia and the three Baltic States, where former Soviet troops have still
notbeen withdrawn, this regional forum could well have a good chance of
helping to improve the economies of its poorer members.
Apparently, and not surprisingly, the main task
of the initiative will emerge as facilitating the transformation of Poland,
Russia and the three Baltic States into demo-cratic and free market societies.
This will require a flow of financial aid and know-how, as well as technology,
from Germany, Denmark and Scandinavia to these countries. Intensified
cooperation and a coordination of policies in such fields as trade, the
environment, energy, transport and communications, is envisaged, and the
initiative is likely to move into other fields such as culture and education.
Thus the former communist states of the region will be tied into the Western
democratic and free market system, which will also facilitate the linkage
of these countries with the EC and the European Economic Area (EFTA and
Contributing to the integration of Europe
A common characteristic of all these regional schemes
is the underlying determination not to create bureaucratic structures. They
will not, for example, have permanent secretariats. There are to be annual
Foreign Ministers meetings, frequent and operational experts meetings, and
regular summits in order to provide political endorsement of decisions and
to adopt functional infrastructure projects. Another interesting feature
is the simultaneous membership of both West European democratic countries
and former communist countries of Eastern Europe in these new organizations.
Yet they are not merely aimed at reconciling differing social, economic
and political systems, as has frequently been asserted in the past, but
are realistic attempts at cooperation in transforming a defunct system into
an orderly and better functioning one. In fact, these initiatives are also
important mechanisms for the Central and East European countries and members
of the CIS to develop and diversify their foreign economic relations. As
a corollary to this, the NATO Economics Colloquium, held in Brussels between
8-10 April 1992, on the subject of the External Economic Relations of the
Central and East European Countries, also included in its programme an analysis
of the relevance of these regional cooperation initiatives.
The search for a more homogeneous Europe, with
a new security structure, has accelerated after the introduction of democratic
processes in Central and Eastern Europe. Principles of the Helsinki Final
Act of 1975, such as pluralism, democracy, respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms which were long neglected by the communist regimes
of the past, have become important aims of the new governments after democratic
multi-party elections. The commitment of these new governments to the
market economy provided a further step forward in overcoming the division
of Europe. As a result, the CSCE Conference on Economic Cooperation in
Europe (the first of its kind since the adoption of the Helsinki Final
Act), which was held in Bonn between 19 March and 11 April 1990, came
to the conclusion that this new environment would prove more favourable
for the development and diversification of economic relations between
the countries which participate in the CSCE process. (5).
In this respect, it can safely be asserted that
the aim of the newly emerging regional cooperation projects, such as the
Hexagonal, the BECR and the Council of the Baltic Sea States, inspired
by the dramatic developments in Central and Eastern Europe and guided
by the principles of the CSCE, is to develop among their partners broad
cooperation in the political, economic, technical-scientific and cultural
fields which should make a concrete contribution to the gradual integration
of Europe. These initiatives will also promote contacts in border areas,
encourage regional cooperation and, above all, contribute to the evolution
of democratic systems in those areas of Europe where democracy can still
be considered as fragile. Consequently, these regional initiatives will
become important pillars of the overall European architecture.
Many hold that it would be discriminatory if European
Union is only achieved between the members of the European Community,
without the preparation of an appropriate structure for the harmonious
integration of non-member European countries within a common economic
space. Regional cooperation initiatives in Europe could provide suitable
means for the dissemination of certain norms and standards, principles
and policies and to prepare the new European democracies for a smooth
integration into the world social, political and economic system. The
initiatives described here offer broad opportunities in this respect,
from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and from the Adriatic to the Caspian
Several European organizations have taken on serious
responsibilities in the formation of the new European architecture and
they all have their relevant and positive contributions to make to this
process. Although their functions may seem to be compartmentalized,they
are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, the interlocking feature
of the European institutions and organizations gives a sounder, a fundamentally
stronger infrastructure to the formation of the future democratic Europe.
Yet reference to the functional significance of regional cooperation in
this process is surprisingly rare. The Hexagonal, the BECR and the Council
of the Baltic Sea States have committed themselves to avoid duplicating
the work of existing international organizations, yet they are likely
to assume increasing responsibilities on the path to pan-European integration.
(1) Joint Declaration Quadrilateral
Initiative, Budapest, 11 November 1989.
(2) Policy Document on the Pentagonal
Initiative, Venice, 1 August 1990.
(3) Declaration on the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation Region, Istanbul, 3 February 1992.
(4) The Council of Mutual Economic
Assistance or COMECON.
(5) Document of the Bonn Conference
on Economic Cooperation in Europe, convened in accordance with the relevant
provisions of the Concluding Document of the Vienna meeting of the CSCE,
Bonn, 11 April 1990.
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