Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited Poland this week to affirm his country's commitment to expanding the European Union eastward. He told the Polish parliament that Germany is an advocate of expansion, but he repeated that no candidate state will get a fixed date for joining -- but rather each country will be evaluated according to its individual merits. RFE/RL Munich correspondent Roland Eggleston reports on the visit, which came on the eve of the EU summit in Nice.
Munich, 7 December 2000 (RFE/RL) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says the European Union summit in Nice, which began today, will create the conditions for new members to join after 2003. But he warns that the individual dates for entry will depend on the situation in each country.
Schroeder made his comments yesterday in Warsaw during an address to the Polish parliament.
He won applause when he said Poland would be among the first new members, but he avoided any commitment to an actual date for Poland or any of the other candidates. The German chancellor said the entry date for individual countries would depend on when they met the economic and other requirements.
"It is the responsibility of the government conference in Nice to create the conditions which will enable the European Union to admit more members from the beginning of 2003. The concrete entry date will then depend on the individual readiness of each single candidate."
In his talks with Polish leaders, Schroeder promised that Germany would negotiate as an advocate of eastward expansion.
Ten former communist states are currently actively negotiating to join the Brussels union. They are the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Polish officials have said they want to join at the start of 2003, but some within the EU have said this is too optimistic.
In his address to parliament, the German chancellor said the Nice summit, which is expected to last through the weekend, has the opportunity to become what he termed a "milestone" in EU history. He said the summit could create the structures necessary for "one Europe."
In interviews carried by German newspapers today, Schroeder said he hoped a compromise could be found with France at the Nice summit over the divisive issue of voting power of individual EU members. Schroeder is insisting Germany should have relatively more voting power within the union than other member states because it has the largest population.
The view is not shared by current EU-president France, which wants to maintain parity between the two countries.
In an article published by the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" today, the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, wrote that the Nice summit was of crucial importance to all Europeans. Prodi said that the summit "will, quite simply, determine whether we have a European Union that works, now and in the future."
Prodi said the Union will remain a success only if it is capable of efficient decision-making after it takes in new members. Therefore, he wrote, "the outcome in Nice must be a treaty that genuinely enables us to give swift, efficient answers to the challenges ahead."