In the 1990s, several parts of ex- Yugoslavia, most recently the province of Kosovo, went through a devastating war, which has had negative human and economic consequences on the entire Southeast European region. In the current period, following the open conflict, a comprehensive long-term strategy has been developed with the catalyst role and active involvement of several international organisations aiming at inter-ethnic reconciliation, regional reconstruction and crisis prevention. The' Stability Pact' adopted by major European institutions and supported by the international community as a whole, is committed to work in three main areas: demoeratic institution building and human rights (Working Table One), economic reconstruction and development (Working Table Two) and security issues (Working Table Three).
From the very beginning of the process, the necessity for a cohesive action between all three Stability Pact Tables has been underlined. Most subject areas are closely inter-linked, complementary or eross-cutting which simultaneously need holistic approach and flexible division of labour from SP participants.
The agenda of WT One highlights the human dimension of political and security crisis in the Balkans assuming that peace and security are best guaranteed when democracy, the rule of law and human rights are respected. Therefore the work plan of the Table airns to
- build trust and confidence between individuals, communities and countries previously involved in conflict
- increase inter-cultural awareness and understanding, promote active reconciliation in order to counteract ethnic-based politicai antagonisms
- strengthen civil society, dernocratic institutions and educational systems centred around common core values of respect of fundamental rights and freedoms.
In an extremely difficult and controversial post-war context of the South-east European space, the Table addresses a wide range of sensitive issues from the protection of minorities and monitoring of human rights situation to ensuring gender equality, to assistance in development of a free media, and to support returning refugees and internally displaced persons in their efforts of reinte gration.
In respect of all three Tables the SP has developed an action driven strategy, where emphasis is put on concrete activities rather than those of theoretical nature. This plan of action wants to produce quick, measurable results and counts on substantial input from countries of the region and adjacent to the region.
Hungary's participation: principles and priorities
Between 1 January and 30 June 2000 Hungary assumes the responsibility of Co-Chair ofWorking Table 1 of the Stabi1ity Pact. The Hungarian side is firmly committed to the success of this endeavour, and intends to participate as fully as possible in the shared strategy of international community. The priorities of the Stability Pact are in accordance with the Hungarian foreign policy objectives - i.e. the gradual development of a consolidated and demoeratic South Eastern Europe, to which the re is no reasonable alternative.
Hungarys interest in regional stabilisation efforts needs no detailed explanation: located in the close neighbourhood of the Balkans, she shares a direct border-line with three successor states of ex- Yugoslavia, inc1uding the Republic of Serbia.
In the early 1990s Hungary went through an important political transition process from an authoritarian rule to a demoeratic one. At the same time, on the international scene, she has a1so been successful in joining important European and Euro-Atlantic organisations.
A consolidated democracy today, with full observance of human and minority rights and a smoothly working market economy, Hungary is ready to share her accumulated experience with all countries of the region determined to folIow the demoeratic way of development. Geographic proximity and common history with her Southern neighbours provide special assets for Hungary to be considered as useful partner in a multilateral co-operation frame set up by the Stability Pact.
The only way to achieve a lasting settlement of the problems of the region is to bring the objectives of the international community into line with the legitimate expectations of the countries and peoples concerned. The above goals cannot be attained unless the demoeratic principles and values are accorded unrestricted recognition in the entire South East European region, including the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Hungary' s conviction is that a future demoeratic FR Y has to be incorporated into the Stability Pact process. As it is expected, SP will set in motion a process of opening up and of bringing the people of Serbia closer to modem Europe and to the outside world at large. Reaching out to the forces of renewal in Serbia and Montenegro and including this country in the Stability Pact is one of the biggest challenges for consolidation of South-east Europe.
As co-chair of WT One, Hungary has developed close working ties with the SP Special Co-ordinator' s office (this includes the secondment of a Hungarian expert to his international staff in Brussels) and extended co-operation with units of Council of Europe, OSCE and other organisations with recognised expertise and accomplishments in the area of protection of human rights and promotion of politicai freedoms. The program proposed by the chair intends to facilitate contributions from alI national and international participants of the Stability Pact, and also to make sure that every major player in the politicai and societallife of a country - central and local governments, media, non-govemmental organisations and churches - can become, if they wish, active participants of the process. NGOs are an integral component of a strong civil society: further efforts should be made to help them to make their full contribution to the promotion of human rights, democracyand ru1e of law.
As the activity of the Table has been organised in seven 'Task Forces' (Good Governance, Human Rights and National Minorities, Media, Education, Gender Equality, Parliamentary Co-operation and Return of Refugees), the first meeting of the task force sponsors (national govemments and international organisations) took place in Budapest on 24 January 2000. Participants at this take-off event of the year reported on the progress which has been made, assessed the needs in respect of human and material resources and drew up inventories of planned activities. The latter meeting held on expert level preceded the plenary session of the Working Table scheduled to take place 210f February on policy maker level. The objective of the plenary is to review project proposals and give appropriate politicai and diplomatic guidance for prioritisation and implementation. (The identification of fmancial sources for activities undertaken is the subject of a separate SP conference, where funding agencies will conclude their budget review. This meeting is to be held in March 2000.)
Based on consultations with task force sponsors and other SP participants, in the action plan for 2000 Hungary intends to pay special attention to the following projects and activities.
1. Task Force on Good Governance
AJ In October 1999, in Szeged (Southern Hungary) a 'Mayor's conference' was organised jointly with the Office of Special Co-ordinator. The aim of the meeting was to bring to gether mayors of the municipalities ofFRY with mayors representing cities from Stability Pact countries, for a joint evaluation of what the latter can concretely offer the former to improve the situation in their towns. At this conference a foundation called 'Chance for Stability' was established and clear commitments were also expressed in favour of the FRY opposition-led municipalities through twinning Serbian towns and cities with European partners.
The Szeged Process continues after its promising start in conformity with the general objective to support bolstering demoeratic local governments in the FR Y and throughout Southeast Europe. The follow-up meeting is scheduled to take place 21-22 March. The aim of the second Szeged conference is to report on the implementation of the tasks set - i.e. on the assistance given to local governments in Serbia on the basis of the questionnaires distributed at the first conference. The Hungarian organisers have processed the questionnaires and transmitted them to the international associations of local and municipal organisations, name ly to the Secretariat of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe (CLRAE) of the Council of Europe.
BI Hungary co-operates intensively with the Council of Europe and with Romania in preparing a series of events they have proposed under the topic of Good Governance, to be called 'Decentralisation, Stability and Local Democracy' . The events are to focus on the general theoretical questions and legal aspects of municipal self-government. The first forum is expected to be held in Bucharest, in the first half of year 2000, with the second to be held in Budapest, in the second half of this year. Given that, as of 1 July 2000, Romania will assume the function of Co-Chair of the Table, this co-operation will ensure the necessary continuity between respective mandate-periods, and will provide an example of good practice itself, how neighbouring countries have to collaborate to accomplish the shared action-plan.
As an event prior year 2000, a regional meeting on 'Independent National Human Rights Institutions' was held in Budapest on December 1999. The seminar co-sponsored by the Council of Europe and the Hungarian National Assembly, focused on the institution of Ombudsman Offices, and the transferability of this experience into the legal-political system of the countries of the Balkans.
Following the same line of action, a regional conference of justice ministers is projected to take place in May 2000. It may provide a good opportunity for a joint review of the national legal frameworks of demoeratic institutions and human rights.
2. Media Task Force
Hungary works jointly with the British sponsors of Media Task Force to draft a Charter for the protection of independent media. We want to see that the principles endorsed in this document are also translated into practice. A regional Charter with verifiable commitments could be an important instrument to promote adherence to existing international standards and to improve internal regulatory mechanisms within the individual states. Alongside the establishment of a principal and normative frame, special attention should be paid to contacts with key journalists' associations and to enhancement of working conditions of the independent media.
3. Task Force on Human Rights and Minorities
The protection of the rights of national and ethni c minorities are essential factors for justice and stability within and between participatory states of the Table. The integration of minorities through their involvement in decision-making process of the society can promote mutual trust and understanding. Forwarding their individual and collective rights, inc1uding various forms of autonomy, can be an important tool enhancing cohesion and co-existence within a society. Along this line Hungary pays much attention to the activity of the Task Force on Human Rights and Minorities sponsored by Slovenia, a demoeratic state who is weIl aequainted with the problems of the region.
A.Hungarian academics and practitioners of minority policy collaborate closely with Slovenian counterparts on the preparation of a conference on 'Rehabilitation of multi-ethnic society' to be held in Portoroz (Slovenia) in April 2000. In that meeting a joint Hungarian-Slovenian experience on crossborder co-operation in the interest of national minorities will be presented. Hungarian speakers will also speak about efforts to eradicate various forms of discrimination against Roma (Gypsy) population, and measures undertaken in order to integrate them fully into the society.
B. It is important to aequaint the countries of the region with good international examples of the peaceful resolution of ethnic conflicts. Towards this end, we prepare and distribute, on VHS cassette, an abridged English-language version of the series "Minoritates Mundi" (Minorities of the World). This is a part of a program-series presented recently by the Hungarian satellite public TV network, the UNESCO's 'Camera Award' winner Danube Television. highlighting some positive models of minority-majority relations worldwide.
4. Task Force on Education
Education is key in spreading elements of legal culture and in raising political commitment to the properly functioning demoeratic institutions. Especially young generations should be aequainted with the basic norms professed by the international community.
Forwarding this objective, as part of the 'Graz (Austria) process', Hungary is planning to launeh a series of seminars under the name of 'Stability Pact Academy' .
These seminars will be held in the European Y outh Center in Budapest. As a tie-in with these meetings, next Summer another event called 'Democracy Camp' will be hosted on the Balaton lake. The intention of the organisers of this camp is to familiarise young people with concepts and techniques of tolerance and demoeratic conflict resolutions.
(For details see annexed draft of the 'Stability Pact Academy' and 'Democracy Camp.)
Budapest, 23. January 2000.
Working Table One (Democratisation and Human Rights),Hungarian National Program, Budapest, 1. February 2000.