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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Leaders gather in Poland for Council of Europe 'unity' summit

China daily:

Dozens of leaders from across Europe were set to begin a "Summit of European Unity" in the Polish capital to chart the future of the continent's oldest political organisation, the Council of Europe.

The leaders and high-ranking officials from around Europe began converging on Warsaw on Sunday for the two-day summit, for which stringent security measures have been put in place.

From early Sunday, the whir of helicopters could be heard over the capital, and police -- 10,000 of whom were deployed in Warsaw for the duration of the summit -- were highly visible on the streets.

Among those who have confirmed they will attend are German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili, and the presidents of the three Baltic states.

On Sunday, thousands of mainly young people from European Union member states, but also many flag-waving Belarussians and Ukrainians, marched through central Warsaw in a parade heralding the Council's summit.

"We, the nations of Europe, do not just watch history being made, we take part in making it," Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis said to the marchers to signal the start of the colourful parade, complete with pom-pom girls and the EU's royal blue flag fluttering among national banners of member states and neighbouring countries.

"We want democracy and human rights for all Europeans," said Davis.

On Sunday evening, after a debate on young Europeans' role in the Council of Europe, Presidents Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania, Vladimir Voronin of Moldova and Georgia's Saakashvili attended a hip-hop concert in front of the Cultural Palace, a skyscraper built in the heart of the city on the orders of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Also present were Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Davis, as well as hundreds of youngsters, but Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushchenko skipped the event due to a fever.

Among issues that are expected to be debated at the summit are trafficking in human beings, terrorism, money laundering, organised crime, minorities' rights and violence against children.

Conventions on human-trafficking, prevention of terrorism and the financing of terrorist acts are expected to be signed.

"Terrorism is one thing that has been identified as a priority. These days terrorism has an international dimension," Davis has said.

Through its low-key work which aims at fostering dialogue, the "Council of Europe can encourage better understanding between peoples," he said.

"The summit is about the Council of Europe's orientation over the next few years, about establishing what to do now that expansion is almost finished," the Council's Secretary-General Terry Davis said earlier this year.

Founded in 1949, the Council took in its 46th member, Monaco, in October last year. In addition to member states, five countries have observer status on the Council -- Canada, Japan, Mexico, the United States and the Vatican -- and former Soviet republic Belarus has applied to join.


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