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Europe: Special EU Summit For May 23 Expected

Prague, 11 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Dutch Presidency of the European Union is expected shortly to announce the convening of a special EU summit in six weeks time. The announcement could come later today or on Monday.

Officials in the Hague tell our correspondent that the one-day meeting of EU heads of state and government will be held in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht. It was in Maastricht that the treaty creating the Union out of the former European Community was signed in late 1991.

The officials say the summit will focus on how the EU's institutions can be reformed to take in 11 new members -- 10 Central and East European candidate states plus Cyprus.

EU institutional reforms such as changing the size of its Executive Commission and the powers of its Parliament have been the subject of a 13-month-old, Union-wide Inter-Governmental Conference. But neither the IGC nor occasional special meetings of the EU's 15 foreign ministers has so far produced any agreement on basic reforms.

Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers agreed to hold the May 23 summit. Several of them said its main purpose would be to meet for the first time with Tony Blair, whose Labor Party is widely expected to win British general elections due to be held in three weeks. They also said they expected Blair to be more flexible on EU reforms than the current British Prime Minister, Conservative John Major.

The scheduling of the May summit means that the EU now will have three such meetings within five weeks.

In mid-June, the Union will hold its regular two-day, end-of-the-presidency summit in Amsterdam. Ten days later, EU national leaders will meet for one day with their counterparts from Cyprus and the 10 Eastern countries. That's when Central and East European leaders will be told officially when the EU will open membership negotiations with some or all of them.