Letter: Maastricht: innovative debate, multi-speed Europe and rebels' power

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The Independent Online
Sir: Jonathan Eyal is quite right to criticise the European Community's current policies towards the central and east European countries ('Kind words, cruel policies', 27 October). The restrictive association agreements with Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland should be replaced by a free trade area in which all goods, including agricultural products, could be freely exported by them to the EC, as recommended by the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. But even this change would not provide those countries with any clear goal or direction to help them to maintain political and social stability as they tackle the immensely difficult task of transforming themselves into successful market economies.

A firm perspective of full EC membership within a reasonable time-scale is essential if they are to retain political support for the economic reforms needed to join. Some claim that this could take 10 to 20 years. But even if this were so, there is no reason why full political membership could not be promised before the end of this decade, subject to appropriately lengthy transitional periods for economic adjustment after they join.

All new entrants into the EC, including the UK, enjoyed transitional arrangements after entry, and the nature and length of these has varied from country to country. Furthermore the Maastricht treaty already implies a multi-speed Europe in its progress towards a single currency. As Mr Eyal rightly claims, the stability of the whole of Europe, including its eastern part, depends on both the deepening of the EC into a full union and enlarging it at the same time.

Yours faithfully,

ERNEST WISTRICH

London, NW3

27 October

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