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Central Europe: CEFTA Wants To Further Liberalize Trade

  • Joe Schneider

Jasna, Slovakia; 16 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The prime ministers of the five countries belonging to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) over the weekend concluded nine hours of talks in the resort town of Jasna, Slovakia, with the promise to further liberalize trade between the member countries.

The prime ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovenia signed two trade-related protocols as well as a statement expressing their satisfaction with the progress CEFTA has made since its inception in 1992.

Slovakia proposed institutionalizing the organization by creating a headquarters and staff to run the trade organization, but the proposal was turned down by the other members. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said CEFTA's virtue, and something it should be proud of, is the fact the organization has succeeded in liberalizing trade with "no employees, no cars, and no computers." He said the will to liberalize trade is enough.

Romania Wants To Join CEFTA

Romania wants to become the sixth member of the CEFTA. During a meeting of the five prime ministers representing CEFTA countries in Jasna, Slovakia, the organization agreed to begin negotiations with Romania on its membership.

In a declaration signed by the prime ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovenia, following nine hours of trade talks, the member countries stated they hoped Romania would be able to meet all the necessary conditions in order to become a participant to CEFTA next year.

Russia Wants To Open Dialogue With CEFTA Countries

Russian Prime Minster Viktor Chernomyrdin says Russia would like to open dialogue with the five member countries of CEFTA with a view to liberalized trade between them and Russia.

In an open letter to the prime ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovenia, Chernomyrdin said that Russia is very interested in learning from the experience CEFTA countries have acquired in liberalizing trade.

The Russian prime minister wrote that Russia is also interested in developing beneficial and friendly partnerships. He said such a partnership could help harmonize European cooperation.

Klaus Meets Meciar

Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus met his Slovak counterpart, Vladimir Meciar, for only the second face-to-face meeting in three years at a CEFTA conference in Jasna, Slovakia.

After the meeting, Klaus said the Czech Republic supported Slovakia's bid to join the European Union (EU). But he added, the Czech Republic has no influence on the internal political situation in Slovakia -- which has been widely criticized for not living up to western democratic principles.

Klaus said each country is responsible for its own transformation to democracy and "for the criticism it receives outside the country."

"In that sense, we are out of the picture," said Klaus.