Kinnock in row over EMU timing

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The Independent Online
SARAH HELM

Brussels

Neil Kinnock was at the centre of a political storm in Brussels yesterday after he questioned two of the EU's most firmly entrenched aims. In a private speech, the Transport Commissioner questioned whether Europe will be ready for a single currency on time, and said he doubted the EU ought to rush towards accepting new members in Eastern Europe.

Mr Kinnock was yesterday summoned to explain himself to the Commission President, Jacques Santer. When he made the speech, Mr Kinnock said he was speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the Commission. But the speech raised hackles in the Commission as it appears to breach the collective responsibility of the EU's executive bureaucracy, and challenges a fundamental policy.

Speaking to business managers in Bracknell, on Friday, Mr Kinnock said: "The prospect of monetary union, not in 1999 by the way, that is still unrealistic in my view, just as 1997 has been, should not of course be approached fatalistically."

Mr Kinnock also said the timetable for enlargement was "unrealistic" and gave the EU's neighbours false hopes. The EU should offer far more help to its eastern neighbours in preparing for membership.

Aides say the comments echo the more sceptical line on Europe that the Labour Party has recently expressed on Europe.

Call for delay, page 13

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