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Western Press Review: Top EU Candidates Named

By Ron Synovitz and Dora Slaba

Prague, 16 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Western newspaper commentary focuses upon yesterday's recommendation by the European Commission that five Central European countries be invited to talks on EU membership. Those countries are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia.

WASHINGTON POST: EU Effects Deeper, NATO Sooner

Anne Swardson writes in a news analysis today comparing EU expansion with NATO's proposed eastward enlargement. She writes: "It is unlikely that any new members will join the EU in this century, while the first phase of NATO enlargement is expected to be complete by 1999." She continues: "Joining the EU (could) have more effect on people's daily lives than would joining NATO, at least in peacetime. Nearly all the formerly communist nations of Eastern Europe are eager to benefit from the EU's lavish subsidies and liberal trade advantages, and many have undertaken severe economic reforms to meet the membership qualifications." Swardson concludes that, although the criteria have not been specified numerically, "applicants are likely to be asked to streamline their economies more than they have already."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Long, Difficult Negotiations Ahead

Brian Coleman examines the EU Commission's recommendations in a news analysis today. Coleman says the report "promises to kick off a series of long and difficult negotiations - both among the member states, and between them and the countries hoping to be admitted to the EU." Coleman notes that the EU will take until December to make a final decision on which countries are fit to begin membership talks. In his words: "A lot could change once the current 15 member states take up the commission's recommendations and use them to make final decisions on whom to invite and how to reshape the EU itself." He writes: "In the meantime, they will be lobbied hard by the five countries left off the commission's short list: Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Tough Discussions About Candidates Predicted

A news analysis by Andreas Oldag today predicts that there will be a great deal of political wrangling within the EU about the selection of candidates. Oldag says: "The individual members are already defending their special proteges in East Europe. The French are pushing for close ties with the Romanians. It has not been forgotten in Paris that the wish for Romania to join NATO failed. Looking at the question only from the economic point of view, this south European country limps far behind most of the other applicant countries. The Baltic states, in this respect, especially Estonia, have far better prospects. They can rely on the support of the Scandinavian EU countries. Slovenia, which is way ahead with economic reforms, is considered to be among the foremost applicants. It is seeking, primarily, the support of Italy." Oldag concludes that the EU will have to "think of something to keep the rejected countries at arm's length."

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: All Five Countries Merit Admission

George Zarycky comments in today's newspaper that the five recommended central European countries "clearly merit admission" into the EU - despite concerns about strains on the EU budget and questions about voting rules and institutional reforms. Zarycky says: "Opening the doors to these new democracies will enhance domestic reform and geostrategic stability. Indeed, what made wrenching restructuring palpable to hard-pressed populations weaned on Communist paternalism was the promise of eventual integration into Europe's economic and security structures. Slamming the door now would imperil years of hard-won progress."

Zarycky concludes that "Estonia's nomination tells Russia the West will not concede the Baltics to Moscow's sphere of influence." He writes: :Moreover, the nominees show other applicants - Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey - and reform-averse states, like Albania and Croatia, the wide-ranging reforms needed to join the new Europe."

FINANCIAL TIMES OF LONDON: Failure To Reform Undermines EU Enlargement

The newspaper today discusses in an editorial the steps needed for successful EU expansion. The editorial says that "judging by the details which have leaked out already, there will be something in them for every existing member state to disagree with." The editorial says: "All the EU members pay lip service to enlargement, which is supposed to open the doors of the club to the emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe. But so far there has been a glaring failure of political will to face up to the internal EU reforms needed to make the promise a reality."

The Financial Times says last month's EU summit in Amsterdam failed to address the constitutional reforms that would "ensure that the Union remains a reasonably efficient and equitable operation. " The newspaper says: "Top of the list is how to reform the creaking Common Agricultural Policy so that it is not bankrupted, above all by the farm sector." It says, "The Commission's plans for the Common Agricultural Policy look painful, involving cuts of up to 30 percent in farm support prices, but they still do not tackle the underlying subsidy system, which is both inefficient and absurdly expensive. The Common Agricultural Policy needs a complete rethink, and this is the right time to do so."

The editorial says: "Extending the club will demand compromises from everyone. They are compromises which must be made."

JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: Poland Will Likely Cause CAP Reforms

Dennis Avery, director of global food issues at the Hudson Institution of Indianapolis, examined EU agriculture policies and Union expansion in a recent commentary. Avery said: "Germany and other countries in the European Union are concerned about the continuing political ferment in Russia, the Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. They feel nervous about the potential for renewed military adventurism to the east and the possibility of countries ruled by the newly famous Russian mafia. (But) Polish farming is a big problem for the EU, which already has a large farm surplus and is properly frightened of the high potential yields from a modernized Polish agriculture."

Avery wrote: "Entitling Polish farmers to the high subsidies of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy could be expensive, too. Very expensive." Avery concludes that "fear trumps financial cost in public policy." He said: "That's why the EU is likely to radically reform its Common Agricultural Policy and quietly welcome free trade in farm products at the next World Trade Organization bargaining session in 1999."

HANDELSBLATT: No Candidates Meet Economic Demands

Eberhard Wisdorff, commenting in today's newspaper, questions whether the EU can resolve the economic demands of its agricultural policies. He also asks whether the five central European countries named yesterday will be able meet the economic criteria for EU membership. Wisdorff says: "In judging the political qualifications, based on the building of democratic structures as well as the regard for human and minority rights, the existing candidates are fairly well disposed. But none of the potential members complies with the analysis of the economic demands." Wisdorff reminds readers that under the EU's own criteria for entry, candidate countries must have developed a functioning market economy. New members must, in Wisdorff's words, "be in a position to hold their own in the Union in the face of the pressures of competition and market forces." He says they also must "take upon themselves the responsibilities and aims extensively existing today in the economy and the currency union."