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The East: Britain's Cook Comments On EU, NATO, Russia

Prague, 28 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook yesterday reiterated that London believes only five Central and Eastern European countries should be invited next month to begin accession talks with the European Union.

Speaking on a one-day visit to Prague, Cook said Britain supports a European Commission recommendation that Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Estonia be invited at an EU summit in two weeks. But he said the message to other applicants should be encouraging. Cook said there is one set of criteria for all EU applicants and when a nation meets them, they can join.

Cook said that membership in both the EU and NATO involves considerable effort from applicants. He said NATO requires democratic control of armed forces which are properly equipped and trained.

On the EU, Cook said the Czech Republic must in particular address concerns over its banking and financial sectors. He also emphasized that all applicants must meet the EU's high environmental standards, a process he said would be neither easy or cheap.

Cook said that as NATO enlarges, maintaining good relations with Russia is critical. He said NATO expansion will enhance stability in central Europe, which he said is in Russia's interest.

Cook said the joint NATO-Russia council created earlier this year has had an excellent beginning. He also praised Russia's participation in the international stabilization force in Bosnia as well as the west's cooperation with Russia on arms control, defense conversion, and in the international stabilization force in Bosnia.