Eastern European leaders call for equal status

At a conference in Paris, Eastern European leaders commented on enlargement negotiations and the IGC.

At a conference in Paris on 7 October, Eastern European leaders commented on enlargement negotiations and the IGC. The Romanian President and the Bulgarian Foreign Minister insisted on real changes for Balkan states to join, while the Czech Foreign Minister opposed the Commissioner’s rotation among countries.

The three applicant countries were represented at the “Newropeans 2000” congress organized by Prometheus-Europe in Paris on 5-7 October, gathering politicians, civil society and hundreds of European students.

President Emil Constantinescu of Rumania pointed out that Serbia’s return to democracy should “open new geometries in addition to Helsinki’s,” including new association mechanisms for Balkan states. Nadezhda Mikhailova, Bulgarian Foreign Minister, spoke of the need for more transparency, democratisation and efficiency as new countries would join the EU.

Pavel Telicka, Czech Foreign Minister, stressed that the IGC should not be a pretext for delaying enlargement, and already drew some possible priority for a future Czech presidency of the EU.

Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the IGC, indicated that it would be foolish to expect the necessary institutional changes after the next enlargement. Understanding the need for candidate governments to be seen as first class members, while advocating a smaller commission, he offered that new Member States would have a right to a Commissioner, but thereafter rotate. However, Mr. Telicka doubted that some present Member States would agree to forego their Commissioner. He hence opposed the very idea of a rotation at the Commission and favoured instead a more differentiated role within the Commission.

This congress was also an opportunity for hundreds of Eastern European students to express their views about the Union that they will join. Their questions stressed mainly political issues like the core EU values end the borders of Europe, and practical ones, like limitations in university exchanges. Overall, their remarks did not differ much from questions put by their Western European colleagues, thereby stressing the convergence of views among the younger generations.

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