The theme of the conference is 'The New Europe in the Global Context'. But several of the participants, including Mr Churkin, saw a risk that Europe would become excessively focused on its own affairs. 'Countries which will not be members of the EC must not be left out,' said Mr Churkin.
Japanese participants expressed suspicion of European-only bodies. The idea of a political bloc stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok concerned Professor Fuji Kamiya of Toyo Eiwa Women's University. Such a bloc excluded Asia and seemed to create new divisions to match the old Cold War boundaries, he said.
But these continental divisions may be less important than older fault lines, for instance between Orthodox and Catholic in Yugoslavia, said Sir Ralf Dahrendorf, Warden of St Antony's College, Oxford, and chairman of Newspaper Publishing plc, which owns the Independent. He was concerned by 'people's apparent desire to live in homogenous communities', and drew parallels between 'ethnic cleansing' in Yugoslavia and racist attacks in Germany. This sentiment was echoed by Andreas Whittam Smith, editor of the Independent. 'There is a deep guilt and sense of disgust that this stain should be on Europe, a stain we thought we had wiped out in 1945,' he said.
Above all, the threat was that fragmentation would undermine international stability, Sir Ralf said. He expressed little faith in what he called 'soft' international institutions such as the Conference on Security and Co- operation in Europe, which other speakers, including Mr Churkin, saw as the key to solving Europe's problems.
Several speakers discussed the duty to intervene to prevent abuses of human rights and to protect ethnic minorities. But Professor Shinichi Kitaoka of Rikkyo University said: 'The threat in the future is that the major powers will forsake the small countries,' adding 'there is a strong resistance towards military preparedness, on the part of, in particular, Germany and Japan.'
The conference continues today with sessions on Europe's economic integration and technological civilisation.