Prague, 10 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Seven Central and East European presidents are meeting tomorrow (Nov. 11) in the Polish capital Warsaw for talks on regional and European issues.
The presidents of the three Baltic states, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine will gather at the invitation of Poland's head of state, Aleksander Kwasniewski, to mark the 80th anniversary of Polish independence and the ending of World War One. The Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel was also invited but declined for reasons of health. Neighboring Slovakia is still to elect its head of state.
The meeting will take place at a politically sensitive moment, with the beginning today in Brussels of the first substantive negotiations on Eastward enlargement of the European Union. Three of the countries represented in Warsaw --Estonia, Hungary and Poland-- are involved in these talks. The other four are interested in eventually joining the EU.
There has been growing concern among Central and East European countries about the EU's strategy of enlargement, involving both the timing and the scope of the process. The five leading accession candidates, which have just begun substantive talks, fear that the expansion process could be much longer and more difficult than they anticipated. Other countries --such as Romania, Lithuania and Latvia-- worry that they may either be shut out of the process or face even greater problems in negotiating an entry.
Yesterday, during a meeting with Nordic officials in Oslo, government leaders of Latvia and Lithuania openly criticized the EU's Executive Commission for dimming their hopes of early entry. They suggested this could aggravate tensions in the region.
During recent months. Ukraine has repeatedly voiced its concern that an eventual accession of Poland to the EU could shut it behind a new iron curtain, forcing it to break off newly formed ties with its western neighbor.
Andrzej Majkowski, under-secretary of state in President Kwasniewski's office told RFE/RL today that the talks in Warsaw will focus on these problems.
Majkowski said that the presidents will hold a series of bilateral meetings and also take part in a plenary session. He also said that Kwasniewski will hold bilateral talks only with the presidents of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and of Romania, Emil Constantinescu. Both countries have long maintained close, cooperative relations with Poland.
Majkowski went on to say that the talks with Constantinescu will focus on Romania's efforts to gain entry into the EU and NATO.
Majkowski said that the Polish-Romanian talks may also touch on the Kosovo crisis and the Balkan situation in general.
The plenary session will focus on regional economic and security issues. Poland and Hungary are to gain full NATO membership in the coming months (in April at the latest). The Baltic countries and Romania are actively involved in efforts to be considered by the Alliance as part of its second wave of Eastward enlargement. Ukraine maintains close cooperation with NATO, but is not currently interested in full membership.