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Poland: Prime Minister Insists On First-Wave EU Accession

Brussels, 7 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- As negotiators from six EU candidate countries met EU representatives today (Thursday) for another round of accession talks, Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek was also in Brussels. He was pressing Poland's case to remain in the group of countries intended to be accepted in the first wave: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia.

Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for enlargement, had surprised Poland and many observers last week, when he said in a press interview ("Uniting Europe," March 27) that Poland was not "pre-determined" to be in the first wave of accession.

Speaking at a joint press conference with European Commission President Romano Prodi yesterday, Buzek said Poland aims to complete negotiations with the EU within a year.

"We agreed with the president that for the stabilization of the situation in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in the whole of Europe, it is extremely important that Poland join the EU as quickly as possible."

As Prodi was discussing Poland's status, Buzek interrupted: (Prodi:) "I tell you that I would be very happy to see Poland in the first group, because this has always been our desire--" (Buzek:) "We can't even imagine not being in the first group."

The six first-wave candidates have each concluded some of the 31 areas of negotiations, called chapters. So far, Cyprus has provisionally closed 15 chapters, Estonia and Slovenia 12 each, the Czech Republic 11, and Hungary and Poland 10 each.

The six other candidate countries, which were invited to join talks at the Helsinki summit in last December, are Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia. They opened negotiations on the first chapters last week (March 28).