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Central/Eastern Europe: Squabbling Could Delay EU Expansion

Strasbourg, 22 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Two top European Union officials today warned that members' squabbling over costs could delay or even paralyze the 15-nation group's promised expansion to Central and Eastern Europe.

EU Executive Commission President Jacques Santer said that member states should not view enlargement solely in terms of their net contributions to the EU budget. He said the organization must guard against what he called "the trap of a purely national, penny-pinching approach."

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said expansion faced paralysis if members continue to argue over who will pay for it. He said there was no way of measuring the cost of what he described as "the only question that really matters: what is the price of one hour of peace?"

Both men made their remarks in speeches to the European Parliament, which is holding it monthly session in Strasbourg this week.

In recent months, major EU contributors like Germany and the Netherlands have asked to have their contributions reduced. At the same time, poorer members like Spain and Portugal are refusing to reduce the huge subsidies they receive from Brussels.