Letter: EU should help its eastern neighbours

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The Independent Online
Sir: Radek Sikorski is right to warn us of the dangers of the betrayal by the European Union of its eastern neighbours ('A betrayal that will return to haunt the West', 26 November).

Reluctance to admit them into membership of the EU, and refusal to extend to them the security guarantees that membership of Nato would offer, threaten the very peace and prosperity that have always been the principal objects of European integration. The Americans are apparently reluctant to extend Nato's guarantees eastwards and upset their developing relationship with Russia.

At the same time it will be many years before the new central and eastern European democracies will be economically capable of accepting the full obligations of EU membership.

The way forward is to offer to these countries political membership of the EU, including its security arm, the Western European Union, while allowing them appropriately lengthy periods for economic adaptation after entry. Such transitional arrangements have, after all, been enjoyed by

all the new entrants into the EC in the past. Early membership will thus satisfy their security concerns and place the obligation upon the rest of us in the EU to help them adapt their economies as rapidly as possible.

To allay Russian fears and those of their neighbours in the Commonwealth of Independent States, the EU should draw on its origins, when the European Coal and Steel Community, set up in 1951, removed the threat of conflict between its members by transferring control over these basic industries to supranational institutions.

The EU should offer the CIS to set up jointly a supranational Eurasian Energy and Environment Agency to control the management and development of all energy resources and to protect and improve the common environment.

This could then lead, as in the case of the EC, to greater economic and political co-operation and ultimate interdependence between the EU and the CIS, and thus remove the dangers of conflict and chaos that threaten our continent today.

Yours faithfully,

ERNEST WISTRICH

London, NW3

26 November

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