Europe’s new outsiders between bitterness and hope as EU enlarges


Europe’s new outsiders between bitterness and hope as EU enlarges

Friday April 30, 2004
Associated Press Writer

While new European Union members celebrated Friday, their left-out neighbors
stood outside the rope and watched the party, wondering when or if they will
join Europe’s exclusive club of the stable and prosperous.

An entire swathe of countries, from Belarus and Russia in the north to
Albania in southern Europe, are seeing their relative poverty and outsider
status reinforced with the eastward push of the union’s borders at the
stroke of midnight.

Some, like Croatia and Romania, have a chance to get in over the next
several years. Others, burdened by shriveled economies and international
concern about human rights, can only dream of meeting the tough requirements
for economic reform and democracy.

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, leader of one of the biggest outsider
nations, testily accused the EU of erecting a new wall to replace the ones
torn down at the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“We regard it as historically unjust that we are outside this system,” he
told a Warsaw conference this week. “We are not asking for charity, we are
simply announcing to Europe that there is such a country as Ukraine.”

Kuchma’s emotional reproach was greeted with a bland thank you from EU
enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen, sitting on stage a few feet away
at the privately organized European Economic Summit.

He left no doubt, however, where Kuchma stands.

“For the time being, accession of the Eastern European countries Russia,
Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine is not on our agenda,” Verheugen told reporters.
“It makes no sense to make promises which are not realistic.”

The newcomers are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania,
Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, and Cyprus. And there’s a clear pecking
order for outsiders.

The former Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Macedonia and former Soviet
satellites Romania and Bulgaria have applied for EU membership and could
start getting in as early as 2007.

Turkey, eager to become the EU’s first Muslim-majority member, saw a setback
Thursday when French President Jacques Chirac said Ankara likely will not
meet the bloc’s conditions for another 10-15 years.

In the Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro and even impoverished Albania have a
theoretical chance to get in years down the road.

Others have no real chance for now. Russia has dismissed the prospect of
getting in, and its view of Caucasus nations such as Georgia and Armenia as
belonging in its sphere of influence may place a long-term lid on any faint
hopes there.

Then, there’s isolated, authoritarian Belarus, which refused permission for
an EU enlargement ceremony in the capital Minsk and canceled a visit to the
Warsaw economic summit by Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has struggled economically since becoming independent
with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. European officials have
expressed concern about the pace of democratic progress, most recently
criticizing local elections won by a pro-presidential party this month amid
accusations of widespread vote fraud.

Killings of independent journalists have alarmed human rights observers, and
corruption, bureaucracy and a weak legal system weigh on Ukraine’s economy.

Still, Ukraine and Belarus may be able to get more aid and sympathy at the
urging of Poland, which shares a border with both.

Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski was the only figure to publicly
console Kuchma, promising to try to “change views of Ukraine” and vowing
that “the message from Warsaw is: The door remains open.”

Other distant outsiders at the economic summit, such as Georgia’s new
President Mikhail Saakashvili, choose to look on the bright side.

“We are working on it every day,” said Saakashvili, whose country
struggles to keep the electricity on in its cities and has lost control of
the Black Sea province of Abkhazia to separatist rebels.

“We are going to go for it, whatever it takes I think we can make it, so
you should welcome us and wait for us.”

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS