Poll outcome lifts hopes of East Europe

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The Independent Online
WARSAW - The close French vote to approve the Maastrich treaty was greeted hopefully yesterday in former Communist countries waiting for their chance to join a powerful, united Europe.

Grzegorz Dziemidowicz, the Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman, and one of many officials in Eastern Europe pondering the meaning of the treaty's narrow approval in a plebiscite on Sunday, said: 'We could not be indifferent. The French 'yes' is advantageous because now implementing Maastricht will be easier, and Polish ties with Western Europe will be closer,' he said.

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry, in a communique, said: 'The result will help Hungary's integration into the EC.' Vaclav Klaus, prime minister of the Czech lands warned that the closeness of the French vote could force the treaty's drafters to return to the drawing board. Attempts to form a single currency had no chance to succeed in the near future, because the economic situation was very different in different countries, he said.

The treaty, agreed in December, is intended to forge the 12 European Community countries into a common political and economic entity by 2000. Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary have negotiated association agreements with the EC, and seek full membership over the next decade. Those agreements are being ratified by individual EC parliaments.

If Europe becomes united, the three formerly Communist countries hope to become part of a new superpower and share in its presumed security and prosperity.

Professor Stanislaw Parzynies, of Warsaw's Institute of International Relations, said: Germany, France and the other countries should try to attract the other half of Europe. 'This process will be in the best interest of Western Europe. Otherwise, there will be a division between a rich Europe and a poor Europe; between a Europe with a good security system and one without it.' One influential Polish newspaper said there was opposition to Maastricht, even in France. 'The French dilemma shows Poles are not less 'pro-European' than West European people,' commented Zycie Warszawy in a front-page editorial.

Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, the former Polish Prime Minister and now a minister without portfolio overseeing Poland's entry into the EC, said the French vote made him happy because 'extremists ranging from Communists to nationalists lost. However, the debate showed that the demons of nationalism have been reawakened. Therefore we need to be cautious.'

Lech Walesa, the Polish President, saw the approval as of 'key importance' to Europe, said Andrzej Drzycimski, his spokesman. Walesa had warned that benefits of European integration must be clearly explained. The narrow margin in France showed pro-Maastricht politicians hadn't yet 'passed the test'.

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