Doc. 9046

20 April 2001

Parliamentary contribution to the implementation of the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe; Implementation of the economic aspects of the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe; Technological strategies for the reconstruction and economic development of South-eastern Europe and Environmental impact of the war in Yugoslavia on South-east Europe

Recommendations1452 (2000), 1493 (2001), 1494 (2001) and 1495 (2001)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 750th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (18 April 2001)

1.       In replying to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendations 1452 (2000) on the parliamentary contribution to the implementation of the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe, 1493 (2001) on the implementation of the economic aspects of the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe, 1494 (2001) on technological strategies for the reconstruction and economic development of South-eastern Europe, and 1495 (2001) on the environmental impact of the war in Yugoslavia on South-east Europe, the Committee of Ministers first wishes to recall that the Council of Europe is heavily involved in the Stability Pact, in its fields of competence, and particularly therefore in activities carried out in the framework of Working Table I on Democratisation and Human Rights.

2.       The Committee of Ministers also notes that many of the issues raised by these Assembly Recommendations do not concern the competences of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers, however, transmitted them to member governments in order for them to take the recommendations contained therein into account in the appropriate regional and international fora. In this respect, the attention of the Assembly might be drawn to the Declaration and to the Action Plan for regional economic co-operation adopted at the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the participating countries in the South-East European Co-operation Process (SEECP) held in Skopje on 22-23 February 2001. This meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the prospects for further strengthening of good-neighbourly relations, stability, security and democracy in the South-East Europe region, as well as for developing co-operation within the SEECP in view of the integration of the countries concerned into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. It can also be noted that the same aims are promoted by the Szeged Process.

3.       It is recalled that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was admitted as a full participant of the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe in October 2000, following which it is now included in all of the Council of Europe’s projects within the Stability Pact. By way of example, the Programme against Corruption and Organised Crime (PACO) has now been extended to the FRY, and the FRY participates in the Awareness-raising Campaign to promote multi-ethnic society and democratic citizenship for all – Project “Link Diversity”. In the context of the process of accession of the FRY to the Council of Europe, this participation can be considered as providing a supplementary degree of stability in the country itself and in the region.

4.       With reference to paragraph19 ii. of Recommendation 1452 (2000), Council of Europe Offices have been opened in Podgorica and Belgrade, and that the Pristina Office will continue its activities, within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, through 2001 at least.

5.       As far as Stability Pact project implementation in the fields of infrastructure and environment are concerned, the Committee of Ministers informs the Parliamentary Assembly that, with regard to the 35 projects chosen for the Quick Start Package (QSP) of Working Table II (on Economic Reconstruction, Development and Co-operation) of the Pact, all except one of the projects, with a combined total cost of 1,221m €, have fully identified sources of funding. It is now strongly hoped that the remaining gap of 29m € (concerning one project in Bosnia and Herzegovina) will be closed shortly. These projects concern a wide variety of infrastructural developments, including road, bridge and port construction, as well as water supply and sewage treatment systems. Some delays in starting work on the ground - with respect to initial high hopes - were however caused by a number of factors on various sides.

It is expected that almost all of the projects will proceed as scheduled. Work on the ground, which has started for 6 projects, will be intensified during the coming construction season. For one third of the projects tendering has already started or is completed. With a view to appropriate co-ordination and reporting, the Stability Pact has called for implementing agencies and countries to provide regular progress reports in order to keep donors and all Stability Pact partners fully informed about projects.

6.       As far as environmental issues are concerned, a Task Force to oversee and co-ordinate the implementation of a Regional Environmental Reconstruction Programme (RERP), endorsed by Working Table II of the Pact, at its meeting of July 2000, secured over 8m € for the initial financing of environmental projects within the QSP. The priority areas of the RERP include institution-building, regional co-operation, civil society development and support to priority national/local projects. Another area in this programme aims at combating war damages in and around the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Based on a scientific assessment of the environmental consequences of the Kosovo conflict, carried out by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), a number of projects were worked out to address the most important issues, including three projects concerning decontamination and prevention of environmental degradation in the Serbian towns of Novi Sad, Pancevo and Kragujevac.

With reference to paragraph 4.i of Recommendation 1495 (2000), the office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE for economic and environment activities has agreed to the Parliamentary Assembly proposal, to discussing joint approaches to preventing environmental damage.

7.       With regard in particular to Recommendation 1493 (2001) the attention of the Assembly is drawn to the current work to develop a social cohesion initiative within the framework of Working Table II, with the participation of the Directorate General of Social Cohesion and the Council of Europe Development Bank. This initiative, launched at the Istanbul meeting of Working Table II (16-17 October 2000), acknowledges that no lasting peace and stability can be achieved in South-eastern Europe without social justice and cohesion.

A social Cohesion Working Group, including the above-mentioned Council of Europe representatives, as well as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), is currently preparing an Action Plan, which will be submitted for approval to the next meeting of the Working Table 2, to be held in Tirana on 21-23 May 2001. The Action Plan is being co-ordinated with the many bilateral and multilateral activities currently being implemented in the region within the framework of the 2001 Programme of Activities (Objective 5) and in particular with the South-east Europe Strategic Review on Social Cohesion.

It should also be recalled, with reference to the involvement of the Council of Europe Development Bank in the Stability Pact, that a 24.2m € loan was approved in July 2000 for the development of health infrastructure in Croatia. This project forms part of the QSP, within its social dimension.

8.       The Parliamentary Assembly is, furthermore, informed that the Stability Pact is exploring ways to support development of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and intellectual capital in South-eastern Europe. This initiative will seek to ensure that the countries of the region benefit from the economic growth and opportunities brought about by the new “E-economy”. It touches on multiple areas such as education and training, capacity-building, transparency, good governance, and economic development.

The first meeting of a Working Group established following the endorsement of this initiative (now called E – South-eastern Europe (ESEE)) by the October 2000 Istanbul meeting of Working Table II took place in Zagreb in January 2001. At this meeting, three thematic subgroups, namely ESEE - government, ESEE - commerce and ESEE – education, were established, which will identify the concrete objectives and strategies to be pursued by the initiative.

9.       In view of the expiration of the implementation of the QSP, the Committee of Ministers stresses the importance of conducting a thorough analysis of the achievements and challenges of the Stability Pact so far, including a thorough assessment of the implementation of its projects. This is particularly important in the light of the upcoming Working Table meetings that should result in concrete action plans by the Task Forces and Initiatives as well as in devising medium term strategies for the initiatives in the fields of economic development, internal and external security, as well as the strengthening of democracy and human rights. It is particularly important also to encourage the donors to provide adequate financial resources for projects that may be presented at the Regional Funding Conference to be held in the second part of 2001.

10.       On education and youth, the Pact has developed activities since its inception. To this end, a separate Task Force (“enlarged Graz process”) has been established under Working Table 1 (Democratisation and Human Rights). The Council of Europe actively participates in this task force, in particular on issues of Education for Democratic Citizenship (including Management of Diversity), History and History Teaching as well as Youth. Furthermore, a sub-group of the Task Force ESEE - IT issues in South-eastern Europe - was recently founded on IT and education.

11.       With respect to the clearance and navigation of the river Danube, the Pact is engaged since some time in this issue. The Special Coordinator for the Stability Pact recently suggested the holding of a high-level conference of the Pact countries bordering the Danube, after the navigation has been fully restored which is regarded a matter of extreme urgency. This idea was broadly supported by the respective countries, as issues of common concern of that region lend themselves to an enhanced and focused sub-regional cooperation, since these issues can be best and most effectively dealt with by those directly concerned. Besides navigational issues, topics of this enhanced Danube region co-operation could also include sustainable development of natural resources, bilateral and multilateral transborder cooperation at different levels, as well as trade and investment issues (including legal framework).

12.       As liberalisation of the Pact countries’ trade regimes is concerned, the Stability Pact has been dealing with these issues from the very outset through its “Working Group on Trade Liberalisation and Facilitation”.