Series Title
Series Details 08/11/01, Volume 7, Number 41
Publication Date 08/11/2001
Content Type

Date: 08/11/01

By Martin Banks

  • ESTONIA: Just ahead of its Baltic neighbours with 19 chapters closed, Estonia expects to be among the first states to join the EU. But it still needs to take action on tax and customs and there are still concerns about the plight of minorities.

Spokeswoman Ehtel Halliste pointed out, however, that Estonia recently adopted laws on the integration of national minorities. She said: “We expect to close the remaining chapters by the end of next year and join the EU in 2004.” Population: 1.4 million, Surface area: 45,227 km2, Chief Negotiator: Alar Streimann,

  • POLAND: Once thought to be a sure bet to be among the first to join the EU, Poland has shown signs of lagging behind.

Largest of the accession countries, it has closed 18 chapters, including environment. But negotiations have not even started on the state's massive farming sector - an industry which could put severe strain on EU coffers. Efforts to prepare its administration to deal with the new laws have also begun to flag.

Poland's economy, however, is considered to be fairly healthy and progress has also been made controlling what will be one of the union's external borders in the east. Malgorzata Alterman, spokesperson for Poland's EU Mission, said: “We have made enormous progress in the last year.” Population: 38.7 million, Surface area: 312,685 km2, Chief Negotiator: Jan Truszczynski

  • CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech Republic is fast making up lost ground and has closed three chapters since June, bringing its total to 21.

It blotted its copybook in the late 1990s over its treatment of the Roma minority but has won praise for recent efforts to right the wrongs, particularly over education.

On the economy, a spokesman for the country's EU Mission says it is all systems go. “Our GDP is growing and inflation is falling and we believe we'll soon have a strong, fully-functioning market economy. We hope to close the chapters on energy, justice and home affairs and transport so we are very positive about being in the first-wave group.” Population: 10.3 million, Surface area: 78,866 km2, Chief Negotiator: Pavel Telicka

  • SLOVENIA: Slovenia has made good progress across the board in adopting EU law and has closed 21 chapters.

Its economy is considered ready for the internal market, barring a few more reforms to increase competition.

One major stumbling block, however, concerns the free movement of people. Mission spokesman Bostjan Sporar said: “We still do not accept that, following accession, Slovenian workers would not be able to work in EU member states for up to seven years.”

It aims to close five more chapters by the end of the year. Population: 2 million, Surface area: 20,273 km2, Chief Negotiator: Janez Potocnik

  • HUNGARY: A front runner, having sped through the negotiations of its recent legislative chapters, Hungary's economy is looking strong and it should soon be ready to face EU markets if it continues on the current path of reform.

Hungary has closed 22 chapters, including environment, and has made substantial progress on agriculture. A source at its EU mission said: “We are confident of being one of the first candidate countries to be admitted to the EU in 2004.” Population: 10.1 million, Surface area: 93,030 km2, Chief Negotiator: Endre Juhasz

  • MALTA: The holiday island still lags a little in closing chapters (18 so far) but, in other ways, it is among the best placed to meet membership criteria. Its institutions function smoothly and are democratic; human and civil rights are respected.

Its Mission spokesman Chris Grima said: “We have been negotiating less than two years and are making substantial progress, so much so that we hope to close all chapters by the end of next year.”

Malta recently relented to EU pressure and pledged reforms on gay rights. Agriculture and the environment could prove two of the toughest chapters to complete. Population: 0.4 million, Surface area: 316 km2, Chief Negotiator: Richard Cachia Caruana

  • CYPRUS: Cyprus has long been top dog among the European hopefuls. It has 23 chapters closed and hopes to wrap up another two by the end of the Belgian presidency.

Despite its good record, the country is still held up by the divided status of the island, following the Turkish invasion of 1974. The EU has been encouraged by efforts to find an agreement, but until the issue is resolved, accession could be problematic.

Speaking during a recent visit to the island, however, European Commission President Romano Prodi said he was confident Cyprus would still be in the first wave.

Stavros Pappayianneas, spokesman for the Cypriot EU Mission, said: “Negotiations are going well and we have no particular concerns about the Commission report.” Population: 0.8 million, Surface are: 9,251 km2, Head Negotiator: George Vassiliou

  • ROMANIA: At the bottom of the class among the candidates, Romania has closed only eight chapters.

Problems include poor administration and its weak decision-making system. The EU also remains worried by Romania's human rights record, particularly its discrimination against the Roma and care of institutionalised children.

A source at Romania's EU Mission, however, said these issues were being addressed. “For example, we recently agreed a strategy on the problems facing the Romany people.” Population: 22.5 million, Surface area: 238,390 km2, Chief Negoatiator: Vasile Puscras

  • BULGARIA: Bulgaria has a long way to go in getting ready to join - it has closed just 12 chapters.

The country, which in June formed a new government under Prime Minister and former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg - has been criticised for its weak judiciary and inability to deal with corruption. There are also concerns over the integration of the Roma minority.

Spokesman Valkanov Vesselin admits Bulgaria still faces problems but is trying to address them. “We are not shirking our responsibilities and have set a target to open negotiations on the remaining chapters by the end of the year.” Population: 8.2 million, Surface area: 110,971 km2, Chief Negotiator: Meglena Kuneva

  • SLOVAKIA: Rapid progress since June, closing another four chapters to make 20, has improved the country's chances of joining the Union with its Czech neighbours.

The economy is stable and the country is forging ahead with privatisation of the banking and telecommunications industries, and should be ready to face the internal market in the medium term.

However, it admits it still has problems with combating fraud and is another candidate country facing question marks over its treatment of the Roma.

A spokesman for the Slovakia Mission said: “Our number one issue is the Roma minorities.” Population: 5.4 million, Surface area: 49,035 km2, Chief Negotiator: Jan Sigel

  • LITHUANIA: Lithuania has closed 18 chapters and is making rapid progress towards meeting the EU's requirements for membership.

Its market economy is now functioning but it will take time - and more reforms - before it is ready for accession.

A source at its EU Mission said: “We still have problems, particularly in two areas, agriculture and energy. But we hope the Commission will recognise the progress made in taxation and strengthening the administration necessary to implement the changes.” Population: 3.7 million, Surface area: 65,300 km2, Chief Negotiator: Petras Austrevicius

  • LATVIA: Although the EU considers Latvia to have a functioning market economy, it remains at level pegging with Baltic neighbour Lithuania having closed 18 chapters.

Social policy and employment are in need of a shake up and the country needs to reform its bureaucracy. Other concerns are corruption and the weakness of the judiciary.

The Commission enlargement report is expected to praise the steps it has taken to integrate non-citizens into Lativian society. Population: 2.4 million, Surface area: 64,589 km2, Chief Negotiator: Andris Kesteris

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