BAKU: Aliyev meets Kocharian

Baku Sun, Azerbaijan
April 30 2004

Aliyev meets Kocharian

by Vanessa Gera

Photo: Presidents Robert Kocharian of
Armenia, left, Mikhail Saakashvili
of Georgia, center, and Ilham
Aliyev of Azerbaijan, during
the first day of the European
Economic Forum im Warsaw,
Poland, Wednesday. (AP)

WARSAW, Poland – Hundreds of business and political leaders opened a
summit amid heavy security in the Polish capital Wednesday to explore
the challenges facing the European Union after eight former Soviet
bloc countries join this week.

The European Economic Summit brings together dignitaries from across
the continent, including 20 presidents and prime ministers and
representatives from leading corporations.

The 650 participants will `scope out what the major challenges and
opportunities’ of EU enlargement are by focusing on Europe’s economic
competitiveness as well as social and environmental issues, said
World Economic Forum head Jose Maria Figueres.

`All of those are vital components of a better – of a more
sophisticated – Europe as we move forward with enlargement,’ Figueres

Anti-globalization groups have mobilized against the meeting, viewing
the forum funded by many leading corporations as an exclusive club
for the rich. About 5,000 protesters are expected to march Thursday,
organizers say.

The three-day summit – organized by Figueres’ Geneva-based
organization, which is best known for its annual summit in Davos,
Switzerland – concludes Friday only hours before midnight
celebrations in Warsaw and other cities usher in the historic May 1
expansion to take in eight former communist and two other nations.

As a precaution for handling protests, police were visibly out in
force – a kind of presence they have generally avoided since the fall
of communism 15 years ago.

Downtown Warsaw shops – from elegant boutiques to fast-food chains –
boarded up their windows with slabs of wood, corrugated tin and
cardboard and police in riot gear guarded a barricaded perimeter of
several blocks around a hotel hosting the conference.

Government leaders also can expect criticism from other quarters.

Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies in
Brussels, said economic dialogue in Europe has been reduced to `a
charade’ as countries pay lip service to limiting their budget
deficits and economic reform, but then do little to measure up.

`In economic terms they don’t have to talk to each other a lot – they
just have to go home and do their homework,’ said Gros, who will also
be participating.

Alongside workshops on the benefits of adopting the euro currency and
the competitiveness of the EU countries, one-on-one talks between
political leaders also feature at the forum.

These include a planned meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan and
Armenia, which have been locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh,
an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.

Ethnic Armenian forces drove out Azerbaijan’s army from the region in
the 1990s and ethnic Azeris fled. Though a cease-fire was established
in 1994, the two sides periodically exchange fire.

President Johannes Rau of Germany, President Ion Iliescu of Romania
and President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia also were expected to
address the meeting.

The 10 states joining the EU are Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic,
Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta and Cyprus.