We should welcome the home of Rubik's cube

Taken from a speech delivered by the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, to the Hungarian Ambassadors' Conference, in Budapest

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The greatest challenge that the European Union faces today is to complete the reunion of Europe. We must right the wrongs of the past century. I want to see a zone of peace, prosperity, stability and democracy from the Baltic to the Black Sea and from Portugal to Poland.

The greatest challenge that the European Union faces today is to complete the reunion of Europe. We must right the wrongs of the past century. I want to see a zone of peace, prosperity, stability and democracy from the Baltic to the Black Sea and from Portugal to Poland.

The fall of the Iron Curtain ended the division of our continent by political systems. Enlargement will end the division of our continent by standards of prosperity. The EU has not only brought peace to its nations. It has made us more prosperous, created more jobs and liberated our citizens to live, work, and travel within the EU's borders. I look forward to the day when Hungarian kalacs, Polish kielbasa and Czech knedlicky are as common in British shops as croissants, salami and pumpernickel already are. As a start, we could make Bikaver as common as Beaujolais.

Enlargement is in the EU's own interests. Accession of the Central Europeans will boost the GDP of the present member states by 11 billion euros every year. It will make all member states richer: with half a billion people, it will be more than twice the size of the second largest single market, the US. It will make us all stronger: because the bigger the club, the bigger the clout.

European integration has been a major force for security and freedom in Europe for the last 50 years. It has made partners out of France, Germany and Britain - countries who found themselves at war twice in the last 100 years. It has laid the ghost of fascism in southern Europe by consolidating democracy in Greece, Spain and Portugal. Enlargement will help make our continent more stable.

The EU must treat each applicant country individually on the progress it has made. Each country should be eligible to join as soon as it is ready to do so. I have no doubt that Hungary is among those at the head of the queue. Only your efforts can ensure that you remain there.

Britain believes that the time is approaching when the European Union could concentrate minds by setting a target date for the conclusion of negotiations with those countries that are ready for membership.

The history of the EU is full of examples where, with imagination and hard work, we have found solutions to the most intractable problems - from the problems of Arctic farmers in Finland to the use of snuff in Sweden. I am confident that, with similar certainty and effort, we can resolve the negotiating difficulties that we face today.

We should be fair. Existing member states benefited from transitional arrangements when they acceded. We must be realistic. It is clearly in your own interest to be full members, accepting the whole acquis once any transitional periods have expired. But the obligations of membership will be costly to implement.

And we should be generous. Existing members of the EU have a huge economic advantage over the applicant countries. The EU can afford to open markets rapidly to new members.

And if we take that constructive approach to negotiations, then I believe we can maintain the timetable we have set ourselves in order to make Europe ready for enlargement to help the applicants to be ready for membership.

In the last century Hungary has made an immense contribution to European life and culture. Bartok made his own distinctive contribution to our range of classical music. Solti influenced how we heard the classical music of our own nations. Biro made life easier for millions across Europe whenever they needed to jot something down. And Rubik drove demented the same number of millions with his geometric device. It is a measure of the scientific and artistic talent of this country that it has produced no fewer than 11 Nobel prize winners.

A country that is so rich in talent will bring added strength to the European Union.

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