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EU: Rule Of Law Must Exist In Candidate States

By Clifford Smith and Joel Blocker

Brussels, 23 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The European Union's top official for relations with Central and East European states today underlined the importance of the rule of law and democratic practices as prerequisites for membership in the 15-nation organization.

Commissioner Hans van den Broek called the rule of law and democracy a central part of the EU's enlargement strategy. He said the Union would not accept as a member any country which is not fully committed to these principles.

He said that commitment meant not only the adoption of democratic constitutional and legal texts in candidate states, but their consistent implementation and enforcement -- which cannot, he said, be accomplished overnight.

He spoke to a conference on the rule of law in the context of the EU's planned enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe. The two-day meeting, sponsored jointly by the EU and the Council of Europe, is taking place in the Dutch coastal resort of Noordwijk. Officials and experts from Western Europe as well as from the 10 Central and East European candidate states are attending.