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Timetable, Possible Order Of EU Entry Proposed At Seminar

Brussels, Feb. 1 (RFE/RL) - A Brussels seminar on Europe Union enlargement today is discussing a timetable for EU expansion, and the delicate question of a possible order of entry into the EU.

Nearly 200 guests are attending the seminar hosted by the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The seminar topic is: "Preparing for Membership: Eastward and Southern Enlargement of the EU."

RFE/RL has obtained documents to be presented at the seminar. An advisory report prepared and by CEPS director Peter Ludlow says that negotiations with Cyprus and Malta should start as soon as the Inter-Governmental Conference on the reform of the EU is completed. That's likely late this year, or early in 1997.

Other countries assumed to be prospective members are listed in this order: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania. The list is obviously neither in alphabetical order, not does it represent an order in which a particular country formally applied for EU membership.

The Czech Republic became the ninth post-communist country to apply for EU membership only last month. Hungary and Poland submitted applications in 1994, while Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania applied in 1995. Slovenia has not yet formally applied, but is expected to do so soon.

Addressing timing and the order of entry, Ludlow's report says: "The exclusion of Bulgaria and Romania from the process would threaten to reopen historical divisions between Western and Eastern Christendom, and would certainly not improve the chances of a sustainable, good-neighbor relationship between, for example, Romania and Hungary."

Ludlow also says in his report that peace in the Balkans and the passage of time will presumably result, in due course, in applications from Albania and the other successor states of the former Yugoslavia.

After a broad outline of conditions for entry, the advisory report's timetable suggests negotiations should open between 1998 and 2000, and that entry could be granted in 2003. But the report says: "It seems unlikely that the European Union of 27 members will actually come into being before the year 2003." The document also says it would be" foolish to guess how long will be needed."

The advisory report notes that some countries waited more than a decade to entry the EU after submitting a formal application for approval.

Also on the seminar's agenda is the EU's southward enlargement. It includes an outline of the EU policy of closer cooperation, especially with the countries of Northern Africa.

Other topics include EU challenges such as monetary union, a common agricultural policy, and relations with the U.S., Russia, Turkey and successor states of the former Yugoslavia.