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Eastern Europe: EU Enlargement Process Begins

Brussels, 30 March 1998 (RFE/RL) - Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) today formally opened an enlargement process to ten countries of Eastern Europe, plus Cyprus. Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told foreign ministers of the other EU states and foreign ministers of applicant states that today's ceremonies were a milestone in European history.

Cook said "we are finally overcoming the unnatural division of our continent." Britain currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

Poland's Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek said Poland had "waited a long time for this moment...the reunification of Europe is underway."

Tomorrow, representatives of the six applicant countries will meet EU officials in Brussels to start substantive membership negotiations. In addition to Cyprus they are: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. The other five applicants -- Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia -- must wait until the EU finds them eligible for substantive talks.