Shultz scores points with Hungary and Yugoslavia, but not with Romania
The scorecard for Secretary of State George Shultz's three-nation swing through Eastern Europe might read: two to one. As he left here yesterday on his flight home, the prospects for better contacts and greater trade between the US and Hungary and Yugoslavia looked brighter.
For Romania, however, the outlook was less bright. US concern about human rights and religious freedom in that country may block an improvement in political and trade relations.
In the case of Hungary, a Soviet bloc nation, improved ties will be largely conditional on continued improvement in relations between the US and the Soviet Union, says Secretary Shultz.
Mr. Shultz said more contacts between the US and the Soviet bloc might generally be expected ``if things move in a direction we would like to see them move.''
With Yugoslavia, improved relations were said to hinge on that nation's desire to value its ``special'' relationship with the US. A nonaligned country, Yugoslavia has for some years had a stable relationship with the US, with little of the periodic bickering of earlier years.
Shultz extolled US-Yugoslav ties as a demonstration that two countries with different systems can create a relationship ``that works, that yields benefits to each.''
The problems between the two governments now are largely economic ones. Yugoslavia is currently disturbed by signs of US protectionism -- in the same way it is concerned by continued European Community restrictions on its trade.
Like Hungary and some other East European countries, Yugoslavia is also irked by the US limitations on technology transfer -- a particularly vital factor in the nation's resolve to press ahead with its mid-term program for economic recovery between now and 1990.
But Zivorad Kovacevic, a government official responsible for US-Yugoslav relations, spoke optimistically to US journalists of his expectations of some easing of the problem on Yugoslavia's account.
With Romania -- the first stop on Shultz's trip through three communist capitals -- the outlook seems less promising. Expecations for improving relations with the government of Nicolae Ceausescu were low to begin with. The US says Romania has a poor human rights record and discriminates against religions other than the officially sanctioned Romanian Orthodox Church.
The low expectations seemed to be underlined by the very brevity of the secretary's stay in Bucharest. It was a short stop-off, with no overnight stay. Whether it was planned that way to avoid the diplomatic niceties and keep the visit strictly to business, it did allow for less hurried calls in Hungary and Yugoslavia for Shultz's positive comments on Hungary's ``liberalized'' practices and the US's ``positive'' links with nonaligned Yugoslavia.
Shultz described his talks with Romania's President Ceausescu as ``frank and candid'' and acknowledged that the differences over human rights were holding up the US desire for ``a better relationship.''
The secretary held back from explicit comment, but the meaning of his words seemed clear. Mr. Ceausescu's response was the often-repeated one of a country's right to regulate its own internal affairs. However, Shultz said he reminded Ceausescu of the commitments undertaken by Romania as a signatory to the Helsinki accords.
The secretary refrained from direct comment on pending proposals in the US Congress to curtail Romania's trade benefits under so-called most-favored-nation status unless the nation improves its human rights record.
But he did say that ``it isn't [only] a question of pressures in Congress, but a question of what in the view of the US is right and proper.''
Shultz said he and Ceausescu had set up some ``procedures'' for trying to resolve their disagreements on the human rights question. But he threw no light on what those procedures might entail.
Given Ceausescu's hard-line stance on issues relating to cultural policy, civil rights, and religious freedom, it is hard to see the likelihood of progress sufficient to satisfy the many concerned critics in the US Congress.