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Poland: EU Discusses Membership Conditions

Warsaw, 13 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- European Commissioner in charge of the EU enlargement today supported Poland's decision to tighten its eastern border but urged the Poles to speed up the restructuring of their steel industry.

Hans van den Broek said at a press conference in Warsaw the tightening of Poland's eastern border is a "difficult measure but we stand behind the decision of the Polish government."

Van den Broek said that he was aware of the problems resulting from the decision. The new regulations require the travelers from Belarus and Russia to produce payment for the hotel reservations or officials invitations from individual Poles or Polish institutions.

Van den Broek said the measures were needed as Poland's eastern border will eventually become a "border of the European Union" and the transnational traffic has to be tightly controlled.

The commissioner had talks in Warsaw with Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz.

The commissioner said that Poland has made an impressive progress in its efforts to integrate with the EU but still a lot is to be done.

"The high priority is on restructuring of heavy industry and its privatization," Van den Broek said. He refrained, however, from answering questions about problems affecting Polish steel industry, export of Polish milk to the EU and a recent Polish ban on imports of gelatin from the EU.

The EU is demanding that Poland lowers import tariffs on steel from 6 to 3 percent this year in accordance with earlier agreements. Poland argues that it should be given a longer breathing space to restructure its steel industry before the tariffs are lowered. "We shall continue our dialogue on the issue and I hope there should not be any further pitfalls hindering the negotiating process," said Polish Foreign Minister Geremek at the same press conference.

In January the EU suspended imports of Polish milk because of low standards. And last week the Polish government imposed a ban on gelatin imports claiming health hazards Poland is to begin EU membership talks at the end of March alongside five other candidates from Central and Eastern Europe.