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Eastern Europeans reflect on EU entry

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are among 10 states, mostly central and eastern European, that Brussels is vowing to admit as soon as 2004. Only Bulgaria and Romania would be kept waiting. But this idea doesn’t please some existing EU members – and a radical view is emerging that what matters is market reform, not EU membership.

Polish farmers: little solidarity from the French,
who absorb 22% of
Common Agricultural Policy funds

Enlargement of the European Union, now that it is imminent, is proving divisive. That does not dismay Michael Hart, senior emerging markets analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, as he surveys the central and eastern European (CEE) states jockeying for membership. "There is very little worth doing in life without a big row," he muses. Tensions are high between the existing members of the EU over which countries - potential rivals for subsidies from Brussels - should be invited to join. And on the home turf of the candidate states, the consensus in favour of membership is eroding, with public enthusiasm for the EU waning sharply.

So unsurprisingly bankers have started thinking aloud about the future of CEE countries if they do not win membership of Europe's rich club. Their tentative conclusion is that prospects on the outside for the clutch of states could be surprisingly rosy.

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