Kosovo likely to dominate G-7 economic summit

Stability, refugees, reconstruction pose expensive challenges

Peace In Yugoslavia

June 16, 1999|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

PARIS -- With the struggle over Kosovo entering a precarious new phase, President Clinton and key allied leaders will have little time to cheer their victory over Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic when they gather in Germany for their annual economic summit Friday.

Rather, they will have to face the issues of how to stabilize what remains a dangerous situation in Kosovo, manage the safe return of perhaps a million refugees and displaced persons, and begin what is expected to be a lengthy, multibillion-dollar commitment to reconstruction in Kosovo and economic development in the Balkans.

Clinton, who begins his weeklong European trip today in Geneva, will seek to nail down European commitments to bear the brunt of providing reconstruction and development aid to Kosovo and its Balkan neighbors, particularly the two countries -- Albania and Macedonia -- that provided refuge to more than 800,000 Kosovar Albanians driven from their homes.

Just how large an aid program is needed, and can be financed, remains to be settled, with projections ranging from $1 billion to $5 billion a year over as much as a decade, which dwarfs even the estimated $2 billion-to-$4 billion cost of the air campaign against Serbia.

The administration says that assistance eventually could extend to Serbia, but not until Milosevic is replaced by a democratically elected leader, something officials acknowledge does not appear imminent.

Clinton is expected to discuss with other leaders overt and covert measures to hasten such a transition, including aid for independent media and democratic opposition groups in Yugoslavia.

"It is important that there be solidarity within the alliance on maintaining sanctions against Serbia until and unless Serbia's conduct changes," said a senior U.S. official who briefed reporters.

"We intend to keep ours on, and we think it is important for Europe to maintain its sanctions so it's a very clear message sent to Mr. Milosevic."

U.S. officials say there will be no gloating when Clinton and the other leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized democracies -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- gather for their annual economic summit in Cologne, Germany.

But it's hard to imagine that there will not be a certain amount of self-congratulation and relief, particularly looking back two months at a war that wasn't going well when many of them last met at a Kosovo-dominated NATO 50th anniversary summit in Washington in April.

Still, the anxiety-provoking standoff with the Russians in Pristina, which complicates the planned Clinton-Boris N. Yeltsin summit Sunday, points to the continuing uncertainty about the course of events even as much of the burden for Kosovo moves from the United States to the Europeans.

The Europeans are assuming a larger role both in peacekeeping operations and economic reconstruction.

The 33,000 peacekeeping troops promised by Britain, France, Germany and Italy -- in a force expected to total 50,000 -- far outnumber the 7,000 soldiers the United States will provide to patrol a sector of eastern Kosovo.

The European Union is taking the lead on economic aid, in part by choice and in part because the U.S. Congress is unlikely to provide much funding.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, chairman of the economic summit, has taken the lead in crafting a Balkan stability pact aimed at helping countries in the region economically and ultimately bringing them into the European fold.

The Group of Seven leaders plus Russia's Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin plan to discuss implementation of the pact, including holding a donors' meeting to specify aid commitments.

Yeltsin is expected to go to Cologne Sunday for the summit wrap-up and talks with Clinton.

His late arrival and limited participation are due to what White House National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger called "questions of physical stamina," a polite reference to Yeltsin's health problems and apparently limited lucidity.

Clinton's European itinerary includes Geneva, Paris, Cologne and the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, where he plans a major outdoor address at the central Congress Square on the future of the Balkans.

Today, Clinton will be the first U.S. president to address the International Labor Organization in Geneva, expanding on his University of Chicago commencement address in which he called for stronger measures against abusive child labor practices.

The speech gives Clinton the opportunity to "put a human face on the global economy" and respond to critics who say that workers' rights and environmental safeguards are being shortchanged in the rush to freer trade.

The ILO, a workers' rights organization under the United Nations umbrella, is putting together a new U.S.-backed convention against the most abusive forms of child labor, including child prostitution, child pornography, slavery, indebted or bonded child labor and the use of children in hazardous working conditions.

Clinton will then go to Paris for talks with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin that are expected to focus on the next steps in Kosovo as well as on issues for the economic summit, which runs Friday to Sunday.

The leaders in Cologne plan to discuss reform measures for global economic stability and debt relief for the world's poorest nations.

The group then expands to eight with the addition of Russia's Stepashin to discuss political matters, including Kosovo, arms control, the year 2000 computer bug and other matters.

Clinton's stop Monday in Slovenia is intended to recognize the economic and political progress made by the one former Yugoslav republic that has escaped ethnic conflict and is now at the top of the list for future membership in NATO.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.