RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL NEWSLINE 14 October 1999
HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS EU REPORT 'POSITIVE'...
Janos Martonyi noted that the EU annual report on Hungary is
"generally positive" and the critical remarks in it reflect
the main tasks outlined in the country's national program. He
noted, however, that Hungary and EU Commission differ on time
frames set for fulfilling some of those tasks. The report
considers both Hungary and Poland to be the economic leaders
among the 13 countries aspiring to the EU. With regard to
Poland, however, the commission criticized the pace of
bringing Polish legislation into line with EU standards. The
commission also pointed to Poland's unsatisfactory progress
in combating corruption and smuggling, implementing
privatization, and restructuring its coal mining and
metallurgy sectors. MSZ/JM
EU UNVEILS NEW APPROACH TO EASTWARD ENLARGEMENT
By Breffni O'Rourke
The EU on 13 October announced a radically new approach
to the process of enlargement into Central and Eastern
At the core of the new strategy is the decision to
recommend the start of negotiations next year with another
six countries: Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and
Bulgaria as well as Malta. These countries, regarded as the
group of less advanced candidates for membership, will
therefore join the six so-called first wave countries--
Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, and
Cyprus--which have already opened negotiations with Brussels.
In this way, the union will no longer distinguish between
first-wave and other candidate countries.
Turkey is now also acknowledged as a formal candidate
but is not yet admitted to negotiations, on the grounds that
key criteria are not yet met.
In the new negotiations, each country will progress
toward meeting membership requirements at its own individual
pace, a principle called "differentiation."
The new accession strategy bears the stamp of the EU's
first commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen of
Germany. Verheugen says the strategy is aimed at balancing
two potentially conflicting objectives: namely speed of
accession and quality of preparation. He says speed is
essential because of the expectations of the candidates,
while quality is vital because the EU does not want "partial
members" but new members with full rights and
Verheugen also brought more clarity to the vexed
question of when new members will be admitted. The report
welcomes the fact that some applicants have already set their
own target dates and says that the EU Commission will
recommend that the EU summit in Helsinki in December commit
the EU to be ready to decide from 2002 about the accession of
candidates that fulfil the necessary criteria.
Among the individual countries that were not included in
the first wave, the progress report names Slovakia as having
made good progress during the year, both in terms of
democratization and economic reform. However, it says that
Slovakia does not yet have a fully functioning market
mechanism and in addition needs to do more to implement
policy decisions and legislation on administration and the
The head of the EU integration section of the Slovak
Foreign Ministry, Jan Kuderjavy, told RFE/RL that "this kind
of relatively positive evaluation was badly needed [in
Slovakia] and now I think everybody can see that the effort
that was employed throughout the whole year, since our
[reform] government was established last autumn, is bringing
already first fruits."
Lithuania, like Slovakia, is not yet regarded as having
a full market economy, and in addition is seen as sluggish in
adapting its legislation to fit EU norms. Fellow Baltic State
Latvia needs to devote serious attention to general public
administration and judicial reform but has made good economic
progress in the last year. Estonia, which is also doing well
economically and is one of the first-wave countries, needs to
ensure that its language legislation is implemented in such a
way as to comply with international standards.
Turning to Bulgaria and Romania, the report finds that
neither country met economic criteria. Bulgaria continues to
make significant progress and shows sustained effort but
started from a very low level. Romania has, at best,
stabilized as compared with last year, the report argues. In
the case of both those countries, the EU Commission has set
conditions before membership negotiations can begin.
For Bulgaria, those conditions stipulate that it must
continue to make economic reform progress and must decide by
the end of this year on an acceptable closure date for the
risky nuclear reactors at Kozloduy. For Romania, the terms
are that it, too, must make continued economic progress, and
in view of the large number of orphans in the country it must
implement reform of child-care institutions.
The deputy head of Romania's diplomatic mission in
Brussels, Viorel Ardeleanu, told RFE/RL that his country will
work hard to meet the conditions so that negotiations can
begin. He praised the EU's new approach, saying that "the
main thing is that all six countries are invited to start
negotiations in 2000.... This is an extraordinary signal for
the political class and in general for the whole society in
Turkey, with its long-strained relations with the EU, is
a special case. The report recommends that Turkey be made a
formal candidate, thereby giving it the prospect of eventual
EU membership. But at the same time, the EU declines to open
negotiations with Turkey and in this context points to
failings of democratization in that country.
The commission urges Ankara to undertake specific steps.
These include enhancing domestic political dialogue, with
particular reference to improving human rights, revising the
way it handles EU financial assistance, and developing a
national program for adjusting its legislation to EU norms.
As for the west Balkans, the EU report recommends that
EU leaders confirm the prospect of eventual membership for
the former Yugoslav states and Albania. But it says that in
addition to meeting the usual criteria, those countries will
have to recognize one another's borders, settle all issues
relating to national minorities, and pursue economic
integration in a regional framework.
Looking further afield, the report notes that relations
with Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus states and the Maghreb
countries of North Africa are of strategic importance to the
EU. They should go beyond trade and assistance programs and
include issues such as the fight against organized crime,
drug trafficking, and migration and environmental policies.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.
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