EU’s Outsiders Look in with Envy and Bitterness

Scotland on Sunday, UK
April 30 2004

Eu’s Outsiders Look in with Envy and Bitterness


While new EU members celebrated, their left-out neighbours stood
outside the rope and watched the party today, wondering when – or if
– they will join Europe’s exclusive club of the stable and

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 the next
several years. Others, burdened by shrivelled economies and
international concern about human rights, can only dream of meeting
the tough requirements for economic reform and democracy.

Ukraine’s 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 European Economic Summit.

He left no doubt where Kuchma stands, however.

`For the time being, accession of the Eastern European countries –
Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine – is not on our agenda,’ Verheugen
said. `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 is awaiting a
decision on whether it will be able to start negotiations with the

In the Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro – 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
cancelled a visit to the Warsaw economic summit by Prime Minister
Sergei Sidorsky.

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

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