Brussels, 9 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer today gave a qualified endorsement of eastward expansion of the EU. Fischer told reporters in Brussels that Germany's new center-left government is "fully committed to a speedy and successful expansion of the EU." But he also said that "realism" is necessary, given the problems within the EU. Fischer also said Turkey must not be excluded from the expansion process. Turkey has long wanted to join the EU but has not been accepted as an applicant.
Fischer noted that individual EU nations are facing economic difficulties and that this causes divisions with regard to sharing out available resources. Fischer's comments today follow repeated cautions from German officials that the expansion process is not going to be easy.
Concerning Turkey, Fischer said Turks must be assured that the EU is not a religious community but one based on common values and interests. He also said that problems with Turkey's "human rights situation" cannot be disregarded.
Also today EU foreign ministers discussed the size and content of a major food aid package to Russia.
An unnamed source in the EU Council of Ministers told RFE/RL that External Relations Commissioner Hans van den Broek proposed at the ministerial meeting in Brussels that the aid package be worth about $450 million.
Van den Broek proposed that the package could consist of one million tons of wheat, 150,000 tons of beef and large quantities of rice, dried milk and pork.
The source emphasized that so far the proposal is only preliminary because the EU has not had a formal request from Russia yet.
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers discussed the positions the EU will take in the first high-level accession talks with Central and East European applicant countries.
The foreign ministers of the five front-running Central and East European countries -- Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia -- will be in Brussels for the start of the negotiations tomorrow.
At today's meeting, the EU ministers are formally adopting the EU positions in several basic areas, including education, foreign policy, industrial policy and telecommunications.
The applicant countries must conform with the EU norms on these and other subjects to qualify for eventual EU membership.