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Financial Post, Weekly edition, Tue 18 Jul 89, page 10. Editorial.


Keep up pressure for freedom

The man is everywhere. No, not the Scarlett Pimpernell, whose exploits were cited once again during last week's bicentennial celebrations of the French Revolution - celebrations which coincided with the Economic Summit in Paris. No, the figure stalking the summit was not the Pimpernell but the ubiquitous Mikhail Gorbachev.

In the midst of deliberations of the seven leading industrial countries there arrived a letter from the Soviet leader calling for co-ordination of macroeconomic policy. ''The formation of a cohesive world economy implies that the multilateral economic partnership be placed on a qualitatively new level,'' Gorbachev wrote.

If nothing else, Gorbachev's mastery of bureaucratese shows he would be right at home with the summiteers. It's unlikely, though, there will soon be a Group of Eight. The response of the seven was polite, but the wide gulf between the Soviet system and that of the summit nations rules out the early admission of Gorbachev to their club.

Gorbachev's interest in the summit was no doubt prompted in part by the West's new interest in Eastern Europe. On his way to Paris, U.S. President George Bush stopped in Poland and Hungary. The West is anxious that the movement toward democracy and a free market system not be derailed by economic disarray and food shortages.

Bush pledged U.S. contributions to both countries. But more significant was the declaration of support from the summit. The summiteers took the extraordinary step of calling upon the European Commission ''to take the necessary initiatives'' to give evidence of support for reform in Poland and Hungary and to organize food aid.

''We welcome the process of reform under way in Poland and Hungary,'' the summit statement on East-West relations said. ''We recognize that the political changes taking place in these countries will be difficult to sustain without economic progress. Each of us is prepared to support this process and to consider, as appropriate and in a co-ordinated fashion, economic assistance aimed at transforming and opening their economies in a durable manner.''

Gorbachev's attitude at least raises the likelihood that the Soviets will not discourage such overtures by the West to Soviet client states. His letter to the summit said that more East-West co-operation is needed now as ''the old artificial barriers between different economic systems'' are coming down.

What's important now is for the summit nations to keep on top of the effort to support reform in Eastern Europe, especially while Gorbachev is in this frame of mind.

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Revised: June 3, 1995

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