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Poland: President Visiting Britain For Talks On NATO, EU

  • Stuart Parrott



London, 24 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski arrived in London yesterday for a two-day visit during which he is expected to press his country's case for membership of NATO and the EU.

His first engagement was a lunch with Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. In a speech last month, Rifkind called for the enlargement of NATO and the EU to include the Central and East European countries, setting 1999 as the target date for the first new NATO members.

Kwasniewski, who was invited to London after Queen Elizabeth's state visit to Poland earlier this year, will meet Prime Minister John Major this evening.

On the eve of his visit to Britain, Kwasniewski told the London "Financial Times" that he has set four goals for his presidency: sustained economic growth, entry into NATO, membership of the EU and "strengthening the competitive spirit weakened during communism."

British sources told our correspondent yesterday that Kwasniewski, who has four years of a five-year term as president ahead of him, is seen "as a young dynamic leader leading Poland into the next Millennium."

The sources said Kwasniewski will be told that Britain regards Poland as "a key partner, both bilaterally and in shaping a new Europe."

He will be reminded that Britain is an "enthusiastic and influential champion of both EU and NATO enlargement and would like to see new members sitting at the NATO table by 1999."

Kwasniewski will also be told that Britain believes that Polish goods should be given better access to EU markets before enlargement.

In his speech last month, Rifkind said: "If we want to help the people of Central and Eastern Europe, let us be bold about opening our markets to their goods and not haggle over quotas and tariffs."

The British sources said the decisions on the enlargement of NATO and the EU are due to come up over the next year or so, and this makes the timing of the Kwasniewski visit particularly relevant.

Kwasniewski is also to see today Board of Trade president, Ian Lang, and the leaders of the two main opposition parties, Tony Blair (Labor) and Paddy Ashdown (Liberal Democrats) before having lunch with Queen Elizabeth.

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