Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-117"

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"Mr President, joining the European Union still fires the public and political imagination of eastern Europe, even after, or perhaps, in fact, because of, the large enlargement round that has just been completed. I would like to bring you the following story by way of illustration. The president and economic affairs minister of one of the so-called new neighbouring countries in the east are paying a joint visit to the Delphic Oracle. To one of the minister’s pressing questions about the trends in macro-economic figures, he receives surprisingly positive responses. Disappointingly enough for him, the oracle adds, 'but not during your term in office'. Encouraged by these promises, the president wants to know whether his country might also join the European Union. 'It will', says the famous Oracle in reply, 'but not during my term in office'. Commissioner Verheugen recently made a statement that was not dissimilar to this wise saying. He stated in no uncertain terms that the former Soviet Union's border to the west, with the exception of the Baltic States, would coincide with the European Union's eastern border for some time to come. His plain speaking, moreover, prompted the offended Ukrainians to comment that it is apparently easier for a Turkish-Moroccan camel to negotiate the eye of the European Commission's needle than an Orthodox civilisation such as their own, which is regarded as alien. We have been told. Meanwhile, Commissioner Verheugen's chosen position bears witness to a sense of realism, at least in the near future. Speculation about, for example, Ukraine's long-term chances of accession to the EU depends on various factors. Suffice to think of the possible fulfilment of Turkey's European aspirations. In that light, is it at all possible to keep the door firmly shut to Kiev while preserving any sense of propriety? However, very recent statements by the Ukrainian Head of State, Mr Leonid Kuchma, that Kiev is currently giving priority to membership of the WTO and NATO rather than to accession to the European Union, should serve to put Mr Elles' mind at rest. Whichever way you look at it, and quite apart from the issue of EU membership, the European Union will need a new neighbourliness policy after this enlargement round. This is causing a great deal of worry at the new eastern border, because the domestic situation in Belarus, the Ukraine and Moldova is worrying, to say the least. How can we promote the forming of democratic constitutional states in that region? Practical neighbourly help is the most obvious way of doing this. An asymmetric liberalisation of internal trade springs to mind, a helping hand to which the EU should, however, attach political conditions. In addition, the new Member States will also have a contribution of major importance to make to the forming of the Union's relations with its neighbours to the east. They, after all, are most closely involved. We are relying on them today, just as the reform-minded forces in Belarussian, Ukrainian and Moldovan, society should be able to continue to rely on the European Union in the near future."@en1

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