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AFTER JOINT PHOTO-OP, COUNTRY WILL TAKE SLOW TRAIN TO MEMBERSHIP

Slovakia shunted off EU fast track

LUXEMBOURG- The heads of state and government at the Luxembourg bi-annual European Union (EU) summit issued a Solomon's verdict regarding EU enlargement, deciding that next March the club will officially open negotiations on entry with all 11 applicants, but as soon as April 1998 will open "detailed talks" with only six of the best-prepared candidates.
In practice this means that Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar will appear in March on the same platform as the EU front-runners during an official joint photo-op, but then will be firmly shown on to a local train, while the five-plus-one chosen join EU leaders in the comfy compartments of the EU fast-track express.
EU leaders agreed to let in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus, dubbed as the "five plus one" scenario, while telling five other ex-Soviet satellites, including Slovakia, that they too could begin the long road to EU membership, though at a slower pace.


See you again in March. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar with his counterparts, Lionel Jospin, France, and Jean-Luc Dehaene, Belgium, at a joint photo-op in Luxembourg.
Vladimír Benko, TASR

LUXEMBOURG- The heads of state and government at the Luxembourg bi-annual European Union (EU) summit issued a Solomon's verdict regarding EU enlargement, deciding that next March the club will officially open negotiations on entry with all 11 applicants, but as soon as April 1998 will open "detailed talks" with only six of the best-prepared candidates.

In practice this means that Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar will appear in March on the same platform as the EU front-runners during an official joint photo-op, but then will be firmly shown on to a local train, while the five-plus-one chosen join EU leaders in the comfy compartments of the EU fast-track express.

EU leaders agreed to let in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus, dubbed as the "five plus one" scenario, while telling five other ex-Soviet satellites, including Slovakia, that they too could begin the long road to EU membership, though at a slower pace.

"We like [the scheme] very much," said Lena Hjelm-Wallen, Sweden's Foreign Minister. "This way, we will begin with all [applicants] and the more developed will only run on faster tracks."

Slovakia's representatives, for their part, were equally happy. "The Slovak Republic is very pleased with the results of the summit," a new Mečiar's spokeswoman, Dagmar Beláková, told reporters in Luxembourg. "We hope that... the possible danger of creating new dividing lines among candidate countries from central and eastern Europe can be avoided and we believe that our European aspirations can be fulfilled," she added.

Noting, however, that Slovakia had been put on the slower track to membership negotiations, the Slovak delegation argued it should be allowed to go at a faster pace with the six other applicant states. "There will probably be a more intensive pace of negotiations for the so-called 'five plus one'," Beláková said.

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