RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 14 April 1999
VISEGRAD GROUP TO MEET IN BRATISLAVA. Slovak Foreign
Ministry state secretary Jan Figel on 13 April told
journalists that the premiers of the Czech Republic,
Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia will meet in Bratislava on
14 May to revive the "Visegrad cooperation group," CTK
reported. "Slovakia is returning where it naturally
belongs," Figel said, adding that this "new beginning"
can help Bratislava in its quest to be included with the
EU "fast track" candidates as well promote its candidacy
to NATO and the OECD, to which the other three Visegrad
countries have already been admitted. Figel spoke after
talks with his Czech, Hungarian, and Polish
counterparts, who all expressed support for Slovakia's
accession to these organizations. MS
HUNGARIAN OFFICIALS TURNED BACK AT YUGOSLAV BORDER. The
Yugoslav authorities on 13 April refused entry to two
Hungarian custom officials, declaring them persona non
grata. The officials were escorting the Russian convoy
allowed to proceed to Yugoslavia after being held up at
the Hungarian-Ukrainian border (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
12 and 13 April 1999) and their task was to check that
the transport is used for humanitarian purposes and the
convoy returns from Yugoslavia. A spokesman for the
Hungarian Civil Guards said that due to the incident,
similar shipments may not be allowed to transit Hungary
in the future, Hungarian media reported. MS
Basic Agreement Reached On New European Arms Accord
By Roland Eggleston
German officials and officials with the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) say that after years of negotiations, agreement
has been reached on the basic elements of a new treaty
restricting conventional weaponry in Europe.
German diplomats and OSCE officials, speaking on
condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the basic
agreement was reached last week in Vienna, where the
negotiations have been based.
The treaty would place limits on the number of
artillery, tanks, armored troop carriers, war planes,
and attack helicopters which can be held by any
individual nation. Another part restricts the number of
reinforcements which can be brought in from other
NATO had earlier said the agreement would be "the
cornerstone" of a new security regime in Europe. The aim
is to ensure that in the future, no single country will
be able to maintain military forces at levels which
would allow it to hold a dominating position on the
German and OSCE officials say that the basic
agreement concluded in Vienna last week has been
accepted by 30 states, including Russia, Ukraine, the
United States, and all other members of NATO and the
former Warsaw Pact. Confirmation from other capitals was
not immediately available.
The officials said the agreed treaty will be
presented at this month's NATO Summit meeting in
Washington and the final text is expected to be signed
at a summit meeting of the OSCE in Istanbul in November.
The new treaty will replace the 1990 Conventional
Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty limiting conventional
forces on the continent, and several amendments since
The German and OSCE officials said it was achieved
only after difficult negotiations in which all parties
had to give way on some cherished positions.
They said that as an example, both Russia and NATO
had to give way on some measures involving the new
members of NATO--Hungary, Poland, and the Czech
Republic. They said Russia also gave way on some of its
positions about its forces in the Caucasus.
The original 1990 CFE treaty was based on the total
holdings of two blocs of military power--NATO and the
Warsaw Pact. The new treaty would treat every country
individually. Each would be allowed a maximum number of
conventional forces of its own and each is allowed to
deploy only a certain number of foreign forces on its
territory to make an overall limit.
German officials said, for example, that Germany
will be allowed a maximum of 3,444 main battle tanks of
its own. Other countries may station tanks in Germany,
but the overall total of both German and foreign tanks
cannot exceed 4,704. It is the same with artillery
systems. Germany is to be allowed 2,255 of its own but
foreign countries can only deploy about half that number
on German soil.
German diplomats told RFE/RL that the expansion of
NATO with the inclusion of the Czech Republic, Poland,
and Hungary created problems which were solved only
after months of argument. Russia argued that the
admission of these states brought NATO's frontline
closer to its borders and it was entitled to special
privileges to protect itself.
One argument focused on the maximum limits allowed
each country. The officials said it was defused only
through a concession by the new member states of NATO.
They agreed that they would cut their forces to below
the levels originally proposed. The deadline for making
these cuts is 2003. As an example, Poland will reduce
the number of its main battle tanks from 1,730 to 1,577
The officials say that in another move to ease
Moscow's concerns, several states close to Russia's
borders have agreed to limit the number of foreign
forces deployed on their territory. In return, Russia
agreed to concessions regarding the deployment of forces
in Kaliningrad and Pskov.
German diplomats said the purpose of these and
other agreements was to decrease tensions in the
sensitive border areas between Russia and NATO.
Another problem which was resolved only after long
negotiations was the rapid deployment of forces in a
crisis situation. Strict adherence to the limits would
have meant that only a certain number of foreign forces
could be sent to another country involved in a crisis.
The United States, in particular, insisted on more
flexibility. Finally, Russia agreed with NATO that in
these exceptional circumstances two divisions of battle
tanks, armored troop carriers, and artillery systems
could be temporarily based in the affected country.
The officials said that the so-called 'Flank Areas'
covering Russia's St. Petersburg military district and
the Caucasus created other problems. Originally, Russia
wanted to lift all restrictions on its deployment of
troops in these regions. There were objections from
Turkey, Georgia, Norway, and some other countries. They
argued that, in theory, this could allow Moscow to
station its entire armed forces on the borders in the
south or the north. Finally, Russia agreed to a system
limiting the number of forces it can move in and out of
these regions according to the situation.
The document now agreed upon in Vienna is more than
100 pages long.
Diplomats describe it as a "basic structure." More
months of negotiation will be needed to refine the rough
text and re-examine some of the details, which could
lead to new arguments. But the experts are confident it
will be ready for signing by the heads of state and
government at the OSCE Summit meeting in Istanbul in
Roland Eggleston is a senior RFE/RL correspondent based
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