- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2001

The situation in the Balkans is "stable but not solved" and will require sustained and intense U.S. and European involvement, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Goeana said in an interview yesterday.

Mr. Goeana is this year's chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 55-nation grouping that is overseeing international efforts to rebuild the Balkans in the wake of a decade of ethnic tension culminating in the 1999 war in Kosovo.

The new Bush administration has been dealing with fears in Europe about an eventual U.S. withdrawal from the NATO-dominated peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, after National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said during last year's presidential campaign that European forces should take over the mission.

Without specifically addressing Miss Rice's remarks, Mr. Goeana said that he had been "impressed by the quality of the foreign policy team" Mr. Bush has put together.

He said there had been a number of positive trends in the region, including the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Yugoslavia and Albania.

But he noted that violence is still a problem in Kosovo, where Albanian nationalists and Serbs have clashed in the southern Presevo Valley region, and Serbian and Bosnian OSCE workers were attacked Monday by a crowd of Albanians in the tense northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica.

"The situation is under control, but a lot can and should be done to bring about the full stabilization and integration" of the Balkans into Europe, he said.

While lacking the financial and military clout of NATO or the European Union, the OSCE is the one organization that links Russia, the United States and virtually every country of continental Europe. The group is perhaps best known for monitoring elections and for overseeing the Stability Pact designed to rebuild the Balkans after the Kosovo war.

Mr. Goeana, 42, a former ambassador to the United States, said he hoped to use his OSCE post to focus on "the soft side of security," including such issues as organized crime, environmental threats, conflict prevention, drug and human trafficking, and the problems of children in conflict zones.

Freed just more than a decade ago from the brutal Communist regime of Nicolae Ceaucescu, Romania takes its OSCE responsibility very seriously, Mr. Goeana said.

"This is the most important international position held by a Romanian in decades," said Mr. Goeana, who plans visits to Paris and Moscow as part of his OSCE duties. "It is a recognition that we are emerging as a respected European player. It brings a sense of satisfaction but also a sense of duty."

The recognition also follows a turbulent election season in Romania last fall. The center-right parties suffered a disastrous reverse and former Communist Ion Iliescu recaptured the presidency in a race in which an ultranationalist party took 30 percent of the vote.

Mr. Goeana, an independent named to his post by new Prime Minister Adrian Nastase last month, called the campaign "sobering" despite what he called strong support throughout the country for free markets and integration with Western Europe.

He said the government now had to deliver results to the population and that the economy is already beginning to show new signs of vigor.

"We have to promise less and do more," Mr. Goeana said.

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