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EU: Aspiring Members React Differently To Expansion Decision

Prague, 11 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Leaders of aspiring EU members today reacted differently to the EU executive commission's decision to invite six states for accession talks.

The commission yesterday in Brussels agreed in principle to recommend the EU begin accession talks with the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus. The decision will be officially announced in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Estonia, whose Prime Minister Mart Siiman said yesterday his countrymen were "extremely happy", was today more cautious, apparently holding back enthusiasm until the decision was officially announced. Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves declined to comment on the recommendation until then.

Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltic countries which were left out, in turn took pains to stress the decision was not yet official. Latvian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Maris Riekstinsh said his country will keep striving for early admission, insisting that yesterday's decision was not final. Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas urged the EU to start accession talks with all Baltic states at the same time, saying they did not differ according to EU criteria.

Slovak Parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic criticised the EU recommendation saying both the EU, and NATO, failed to respect the criteria they had set for choosing new members.