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EU agrees on stability pact

THE European Union is to push ahead with a plan to diminish national tensions in Central and East Europe. But after last-minute summit haggling, it is now clear that the initiative will not include either the war-torn Balkans or Caucasus.

A pact for regional stability, the brainchild of the French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, is to be launched at a conference in Paris in April. It will have a large guest list, including the EU, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the three Baltic states. Eighteen other states will be invited, including the United States, Russia and Canada. All 53 members of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe will be invited as observers.

But neither the Balkan nor Caucasus wars will be on the agenda, making it questionable how effective the plan will be. It aims to draw up 'good neighbour' agreements as an exercise in preventive diplomacy. The guest list was one of the main differences between summit leaders. The initiative received a lukewarm reception from Central and East Europe, but as it is seen to form part of the path to EU membership all are likely to attend.

The summit also discussed Yugoslavia, and Bosnian leaders will meet in Brussels on 22 December. Inevitably, decisions on some aspects are sliding out of reach, and with little progress expected from the Greek presidency - which takes over in January - some may be shelved indefinitely.

The EU summit, which was dominated by the Gatt trade talks, also led to a number of other political decisions, but in many cases vital elements were left unresolved. It approved a plan for jobs based on a paper from Jacques Delors, the President of the European Commission, but left open key financial decisions on how 8bn ecus ( pounds 6bn) a year will be raised.

The summit also skipped lightly over a controversial decision on new voting rules to be introduced after new members join the EU in 1995. It approved a change in the rotation of EU presidencies, and agreed that each of the new members could have a commission member. A decision on this must be made in coming months, as negotiations with Sweden, Norway, Finland and Austria are nearing their end.

Delors's plan, page 14