RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 20 March 2000
HUNGARIAN PREMIER WANTS 'DEEDS, NOT WORDS' ON TISZA RIVER
POLLUTION. Viktor Orban told journalists on 18 March after
meeting with his Romanian counterpart, Mugur Isarescu, in
Budapest that while he has received "all possible
explanations" about the causes of the Tisza River pollution,
"Hungary has suffered damages caused by others and those
others must pay compensation." He said Hungarian legal
advisers will soon decide whether to seek that compensation
from the Romanian government, Romanian Radio reported.
Isarescu said he will ask the EU to help Romania introduce
European environmental standards. On 17 March, Hungarian
officials said heavy metals pollution was again spotted in
the river, but they added that such pollution is less
concentrated than earlier. Isarescu was attending a Budapest
conference on the Balkan Stability Pact. MS
ORBAN'S OFFICE INITIATES PROCEEDINGS AGAINST ANTI-ROMA
COMMENTS. The Hungarian Prime Minister's Office has launched
legal proceedings against Peter Szegvari, a high-ranking
official in the office, for having suggested that
contraceptives be distributed to the Romany population to
combat "excessive multiplication," Hungarian media reported
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 2000). Peter Balazs, a
member of Szegvari's staff who had prepared the offending
document, was dismissed from the office. His dismissal,
however, is not connected to Szegvari's suggestion but to a
breach of the "conflict of interests" regulation in another,
unrelated case, the premier's office said. MS
NATO, EU WATCHING TENSE SITUATION IN MONTENEGRO.
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said in Budapest on 17
March that the alliance is watching the situation in
Montenegro with "growing concern," dpa reported. Robertson,
speaking at a two-day meeting of Balkan officials to discuss
the Balkan Stability Pact, said he publicly calls on Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic to "end the economic blockade of
Montenegro." That embargo, he said, is "a provocation, which
seeks to undermine the authority" of Montenegrin President
Milo Djukanovic's government. Robertson's predecessor and the
EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said the EU "will
not tolerate the creation of any problem in Montenegro."
Solana said his message is directed at Milosevic. The
conference was attended by the premiers of Albania, Bulgaria,
Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, and one member of the
Bosnian presidency, who all declared in a statement that
Montenegro should remain within the Yugoslav federation. PB
EU ENLARGEMENT NEGOTIATIONS: A DIFFICULT PATH TO TREAD
By Breffni O'Rourke
Substantive membership negotiations are due to begin
next week between the EU's Executive Commission and the five
second-wave Eastern European candidate countries--Bulgaria,
Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The EU divides accession negotiations into 31 subject
areas, which it calls chapters. The commission has proposed
that for each of those five countries, the talks initially
cover at least five chapters: small business, education,
science, external relations, and common security policy.
These are seen as the easiest of the chapters, largely
because EU members and the eastern applicants already have
much in common in those areas.
Bulgaria has been offered negotiations in an additional
area, cultural and audio-visual policy. Slovakia, Latvia, and
Lithuania have been offered that area plus competitions
policy and statistics.
Over the coming months and even years, negotiations will
be opened on all the chapters. However, the term
"negotiations" is somewhat exaggerated in this context, since
the process largely consists of the EU side explaining what
the candidates have to do to meet EU norms in each of the
given areas. As one Brussels-based Bulgarian diplomat,
Vesselin Valkanov, told RFE/RL, "These are not classic
negotiations, you are not sitting there bargaining in the
true sense of the word. You are an applicant, and the rules
of the club are as follows, so basically if you are aspiring
to become a member of this particular club, you will have to
accept the rules that are being laid out for you, and not
only for you, but for those who are already members of the
Commission officials have made clear that the EU will
maintain a hard line and that there will be no softening of
requirements for the less advanced second-wave countries. The
EU's new chief negotiator on enlargement, Eneko Landaburu of
Spain, says the thousands of pages of the EU body of rules
must not only be adopted by candidates but also put into
practice in reality.
Landaburu says there can be no "handouts" to the future
members. What counts, he says, is their state of
preparedness, for their own sake and the sake of present EU
members. Valkanov said that "on the bulk of the rules, or the
so-called acquis communautaire, there won't be any
bargaining, simply we must find ways to incorporate them in
our legislation and to also effectively to implement them in
our daily work in Bulgaria, and not argue whether we accept
them or not."
In specific cases where a candidate considers that
applying the rules is especially difficult, it can ask for a
transition period after accession to give it more time to
reach compliance. Diplomats say that it is at this point that
the only real bargaining enters the whole process: namely
over the terms and length of transition periods. First-wave
candidate Hungary, for instance, has asked for 35 such
For its part, the EU has made clear it does not favor
many transition periods, and even when allowed such periods
must be limited in time and scope. In theory, candidates can
go a step further and ask for a "derogation," meaning a
permanent exemption from EU rules in a particular area.
However, one EU official said all the eastern candidates were
told from the start that no derogations are expected.
None of the first-wave countries (Poland, Hungary,
Slovenia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic) have asked for
derogations during their two years of negotiations, and the
official said none are expected from second-wave candidates.
Not all the candidates are happy about the EU's hard
line, as some see undertones of political self-interest to
it. Front-runners like Hungary hint that this approach by
Brussels could be designed to slow entry. EU enlargement
negotiator Landaburu denies that political pressure has any
impact on the enlargement process. But it is clear that
pressure exists in many forms.
One example is provided by the foreign minister in
Austria's controversial new rightist government, Benita
Ferrero-Waldner. She says Austria wants a period of
restriction on the movement of people and services from the
east into the EU in order to protect Austrian jobs and
companies. Germany also favors such a restrictive period.
Senior EU figures, including Landaburu and Enlargement
Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, are adamant that setting
dates for the entry of new members is a pointless exercise at
this stage. In short, it seems that the second-wave countries
have a long haul ahead of them.
Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc.
All rights reserved.