Vol 1, No. 71, 11 July 1997
EU COMMISSION WANTS TO START MEMBERSHIP TALKS
WITH FIVE EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES. The
European Commission agreed in principle to recommend
that the EU open membership talks with Poland, the Czech
Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, and Cyprus, an EU
spokesman told journalists in Brussels on 10 July. Some of
the 20 EU commissioners had opposed offering
membership to Slovenia and Estonia. The European
Commission decision is expected to be confirmed in
Strasbourg on 15 July, one day before the commission
unveils individual advice to EU governments on which of 10
applicants from Eastern Europe qualify economically and
politically for membership. Commissioners worked out a
system enabling those states left out of the first
enlargement wave--Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania,
and Bulgaria--to be given a timetable for meeting the
conditions of EU membership.
REACTIONS TO EU COMMISSIONERS'
RECOMMENDATION. Estonian Prime Minister Mart Siiman
on 10 July welcomed the European Commission
recommendation. Siiman, who is attending the annual
Central and Eastern European Economic Summit in Salzburg,
Austria, told Reuters that Estonians know they must now
do everything possible to negotiate successfully through
the accession process. Polish Deputy Prime Minister Marek
Belka told journalists on 10 July he is "glad Poland is in."
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek told Reuters that
his country had expected the decision. But Romanian
President Emil Constantinescu told journalists that EU
commissioners' recommendation is "hasty" and does not
reflect the point of view of the heads of state and
governments of EU member countries.
U.S. PRESIDENT IN POLAND. Bill Clinton told some 5,000
cheering Poles in Warsaw's Castle Square on 10 July that
Poland's destiny as a free nation at the heart of Europe is
finally being fulfilled by joining NATO. Clinton arrived in
Warsaw that day to congratulate Poland on being invited,
together with Hungary and the Czech Republic, to join
NATO. "Never again will your fate be decided by others --
Poland is coming home," Clinton said. Polish President
Aleksander Kwasniewski told the crowd "We have always
been friends, now we will be allies." In Kwasniewski's view
the decision to expand NATO "changes the history of
Europe and the world." Clinton arrives in Romania on 11
HUNGARIAN GOVERNMENT WANTS ELECTIONS IN MAY
1998. The cabinet proposed on 10 July that parliamentary
elections be held in May 1998, Hungarian media reported.
Government spokesman Elemer Kiss said parties could
allocate maximum 1 million forints ($5,400) per candidate
for the election campaign, while the campaign period would
be reduced from 90 to 72 days. Some 2 billion forints would
be allocated to the Interior Ministry this year for
preparing both the elections and a referendum on NATO
membership. The government also proposed that after
1998, elections take place every four years in April.
NATO EXPECTS MILITARY REFORMS IN HUNGARY. U.S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen said in Budapest on 10
July that Hungary must meet financial and military
obligations in order to join the alliance, Hungarian media
reported. He said the U.S. would pay only $150-200 million
of the estimated $27-35 billion needed in the next 13
years for the accession of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and
Poland. Hungary's defense budget must be raised to 2.1-
2.2% of GDP, Cohen concluded. Hungarian Defense Minister
Gyoergy Keleti said it could take 10 years until the country
upgrades its Soviet-armed military equipment and meets
NATO standards. He noted that the renewal of the air force,
air defense, and the radar system are the top priorities
(see also "End Note" below).
HUNGARIAN CONSULATE IN CLUJ TO OPEN SOON. The
Hungarian consulate in Cluj will be officially inaugurated on
23 July by the Romanian and Hungarian foreign ministers,
Radio Bucharest announced on 10 July. The consulate was
closed in the 1980s by Nicolae Ceausescu's regime; its re-
inauguration was agreed to in the basic treaty signed by
the two countries last year. Meanwhile, the extreme
nationalist mayor of the city, Gheorghe Funar, has
announced he will not implement a government decision on
bilingual street signs and the employment of translators
by local authorities in settlements with large minority
populations. Funar claims that some 400 translators would
have to be employed for this purpose, while the local
prefect, Alexandru Farcas, says one translator would
suffice, Romanian Television reported. Farcas said he might
start procedures to dismiss Funar.
How Much Will NATO Enlargement Cost?
by Michael Mihalka
A number of reports have appeared recently in the
Western media asserting that the cost of NATO
enlargement could exceed $100 billion. Such assertions are
based on several fallacies.
First, it is frequently claimed that new members must
replace their Soviet-era equipment with modern Western
weaponry. In fact, new members need only make their
current forces interoperable with NATO, meaning providing
English-language courses, changing air defense and
command-and-control procedures, and perhaps purchasing
communication equipment. German Defense Minister Volker
Ruehe has called claims that new members must buy
Western equipment "pure drivel." He noted that "it is
perverse to say that modern tanks and aircraft are
necessary in the new member states. We are not talking
about EU agriculture. The purchase of tanks can wait."
Second, it is often maintained that requirements drive
defense budgets. In fact, politics drive those budgets. Many
studies of the costs of NATO enlargement specify tasks
that would need to be performed by new members. Costs
are then associated with those tasks. The higher estimates
are based on a scenario of hedging against a large-scale
short-warning attack such as NATO was prepared for during
the Cold War. According to that scenario, NATO would
deploy forward, large air and ground combat forces in the
new member states. NATO has already decided that it does
not need to pursue that option.
A third fallacy is that NATO dictates the terms of
membership. In fact, while the alliance says what it expects
membership candidates to do, those countries can they can
do as they please once they become members. Some NATO
countries, such as Iceland and Luxembourg, have no or only
notional armed forces. Others, such as Norway, refuse to
have foreign troops or nuclear weapons stationed on their
territories. Still others, such as Spain, Greece, and France,
have sometimes refused to participate in the integrated
Finally, it is frequently claimed that joining an alliance
increases military expenditures. But, in fact, countries are
more likely to spend less on defense in the long run if they
belong to an alliance rather than having to deal with
security concerns on their own.
Most policy-makers in Central and Eastern Europe believe
that the costs associated with NATO enlargement would be
small and manageable. They also realize that they needed
to modernize their forces regardless of whether they join.
Cost assessments by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and
Poland fall far short of those carried out in the West.
Peter Necas, the former Czech deputy defense minister,
said in an April 1997 interview (when he was chairman of
the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee) that
modernizing the army was essential unless troops were
simply to be used as a castle guard in handsome uniforms
for parades. He also pointed out the direct costs to ensure
interoperability with NATO were already being paid so that
Czech units could participate in exercises with NATO
members and in the Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-
Herzegovina. He estimated that another part of the direct
costs--the contribution to NATO's budget--would total 300-
400 million crowns annually (about $10-12 million).
A Polish study group that included officials from the
Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries estimated that the
essential costs of joining NATO--integrating the command
system with NATO, ensuring the compatibility of the
telecommunications and air defense systems, and
modernizing airfields--would total some $1.5 billion. The
group assumed that Poland would need to contribute $35-
40 million annually to the alliance's joint budget. According
to those estimates, the Polish defense budget would
increase by no more than 4 percent. Janusz Onyskiewicz,
former defense minister and currently chairman of the
parliamentary Defense Committee, noted that the cost of
NATO enlargement presents no major difficulty to either
new or current members.
Imre Mecs, the chairman of the Hungarian parliament's
Defense Committee, said in March 1997 that defense
expenditures might increase by 15-20 percent but that
most of the increase would be needed to modernize a
military that had not been upgraded in 15 years. Joining
NATO would not pose an economic burden for the Hungarian
people, he argued.
The May 1996 Congressional Budget Office study, which
contains the highest estimates of the costs of NATO
enlargement, defined the worst-case scenario so that U.S.
legislators would know the highest amount the U.S. might
have to contribute. Even that study concluded it would cost
only $21.2 billion for training and exercises and for
upgrading air defense and command as well as control and
communications equipment in the Czech Republic, Hungary,
Poland, and Slovakia. Of that amount, those four countries
would have paid 70 percent, while the U.S. would have
needed to contribute $1.9 billion and its European allies
$3.7 billion over several years. That amount does not differ
significantly from the one given in the February 1997 State
Department study of the costs of NATO enlargement.
According to that study, the U.S. would need to pay about
$150-200 million a year--or less than 0.1 percent of the
annual U.S. defense budget.
The author teaches at the George C. Marshall Center for
Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc.
All rights reserved.