Source Pravda.Ru

European Union: 25 Member States by 2004?

The list of new Member States will be revealed at the end of 2002. There are indications that it will be long.

The news from Brussels is that the convergence criteria are being met much sooner than expected in the block of countries composed of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the Central European block (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech republic and Slovenia) and the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus.

On Tuesday last week, the European Commission approved a yearly report which for the first time indicates that tem new states could be included in the first wave of adhesions, already in 2004.

Under the Gothemburg Summit, the first wave of countries should take part in the European parliament elections in 2004. Conditions for adhesion are political (a democratic State of Law) and economic (impact of a market economy). Bulgaria is not totally outside convergence criteria, according to the report.

Agricultural and regional development policies will be the main negotiating points for this group of countries, as structural funds will have to be calculated and prepared. For the poorer countries in the 15-Member Union, such as Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland, the current supply of structural funds is guaranteed until 2006, but not afterwards.

That is when the real war will begin and it remains to be seen how unified the European Union really is, because it will be then that the structural funds will be spread over a larger area.

Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru

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