Santer sets out guidelines for those seeking EU membership


THE final theme of the evening was a brief discussion on enlargement. Mr Santer set out the criteria applicant countries will have to fulfil to join the Union. Political criteria will include respect for the rule of law, freedom of political parties, treatment of minorities, independence of the media and of NGOs.

On economic criteria, all but one or two of the applicants states have improved their performance. However, all have much to do economically. Any derogations would be only for transitional periods limited in scope and time.

Mr Persson said the accession states still had a long way to go. He proposed the Amsterdam summit should consider suggestions to reinforce the pre-accession strategy, to take account of trade liberalisation, regional co-operation and the Union's own preparations in agriculture and structural fund reforms.

Mr Santer warned of the magnitude of the challenges facing the Union in these areas.

Mr Schuessel said it would be difficult to set dates for accession, but failure to do so could lead to resentment. Enlargement had to be sold to the public jest as the euro was.