Summit Shift: East-West Emphasis
G-7 IN PARIS
IN a move that shifted the anticipated emphasis of their weekend summit from North-South to East-West affairs, leaders of the seven major industrialized nations called for ``concerted'' economic assistance for Poland and Hungary - and designated the European Commission to organize it. It was perhaps the one surprise from two days of meetings that French President Fran,cois Mitterrand said ``initiate a new round of summits.'' The Group of Seven (G-7) leaders fulfilled anticipation of a ``green summit'' by dedicating eight of the final communiqu'e's 21 pages to environmental issues.
Mr. Mitterrand said the 15 annual summits since 1975 have led to a new level of economic cooperation among the world's major democratic economies. This summit, Mitterrand and others of the seven leaders said, marked a shift toward consolidating Western prosperity, continuing work to bring the world's poor nations into that prosperity, and integrating environmental concerns into development and other economic decisions.
Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in particular said he was struck by the level to which environmental issues dominated the Western leaders' talks.
Yet while the emphasis on environmental issues - ranging from chlorofluorocarbons, global warming, and rain forest destruction to integration of environmental concerns into economic development projects - was anticipated, the swiftness and specificity with which the seven addressed aid to Poland and Hungary were not.
European and other officials said designation of the European Commission to organize Western assistance was a sign of both the seriousness with which the European Community is now viewed, and decreasing concerns among American leaders in particular of a ``fortress Europe.''
The level of importance given aid to the two East European nations was seen by some as a feather in the cap of President George Bush, who was attending his first economic summit. Mr. Bush, who toured both countries before coming here, also won support from the Western leaders for a rescheduling of Poland's $38 billion debt.
The summit leaders designated the EC's executive arm, the European Commission, to organize meetings ``in the next few weeks'' to formulate assistance to the two East-bloc nations the furthest advanced in economic and political liberalization. The communiqu'e called for ``all interested countries'' to take part in the meetings.
In a related move that was unusually specific for such summits, the seven Western leaders called for immediate food assistance for Poland, which they described as being in ``urgent need.''
European Commission President Jacques Delors said he envisioned a two-year project that would seek to stabilize market provisioning of food products in Poland, while improving delivery infrastructures.
Designation of the European Commission as the coordinator of forthcoming economic assistance satisfied European concerns that any initiative not be seen either as too aggressive or as US-driven. ``The commission is a relatively neutral terrain,'' said commission spokesman Claus Ehlermann.
French officials especially said any program appearing overly aggressive could be counterproductive by putting too much pressure on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the reforms his perestroika (restructuring) is encouraging in the East bloc.
As a reminder of his desire to see his country play a larger role in international economics, Mr. Gorbachev addressed a letter to the Western leaders stating his desire to ``engage in a constructive dialogue'' on international economic issues.
Gorbachev noted that global economic interdependence not only helps to overcome world division, but also ``increases considerably the risk of collision of interests.''
Consensus among Western leaders reflected Bush's statement that Soviet participation in economic discussions at such summits was ``very premature.'' Mitterrand noted that the Soviet Union ``doesn't yet'' fulfill the requirements of ``democratic institutions and practice'' that tie the summit members.
MITTERRAND, who hosted the meetings, had wanted the summit to focus more on third-world problems. But he did not get either the call for ``new money'' from international monetary agencies to lighten the poorest countries' $1.3 trillion debt, or the North-South summit, that he had advocated.
The US and Britain appeared most opposed to a North-South meeting, with US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady stating early on that the debt of third-world countries was best approached on a ``case-by-case'' basis. Still, Mitterrand promised to pursue such a meeting and to ``convince those who remain reluctant.''
The seven leaders called for an end to the use of chlorofluorocarbons at least by the end of the century, a pledge that added the US, Canada, and Japan to a similar goal set by the EC earlier this year. An emphasis was also placed on research to develop alternatives to environmentally damaging but widely used materials.
In addition, the leaders asked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to study the development of international environmental indicators, a move sought by Canada.
Noting that this was the first summit meeting at which environmental issues took up a separate session, US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly said, ``Environmental policy is beginning to move from the margins to the mainstream of concern.''
Rather than advocating the creation of any new international environmental agencies, however, the seven leaders reinforced the work of existing agencies, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, most of which are arms of the United Nations.