Letter: 'Open your markets to give us hope'

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Sir: There is not only a 'failure of vision' (Leading article, 29 October) on the part of the European Community, but also a failure to perceive and respond politically to the most crucial events in Europe since the Second World War. Today, it is being decided whether the Czech lands, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia win their battle for democracy and a market economy or whether there will be a 'slide into tribalism', as Jacques Attali, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has rightly warned.

We appreciate Western European financial and humanitarian aid, as well as loans with favourable interest rates and other assistance. However, if we are not given the most simple thing the West can grant - free and fair access to the Western markets in which we can compete - then all other help becomes a pathetic gesture.

It is beyond my understanding why there are no Western European politicians who will not only openly present the seriousness of this situation, but also press the matter harder. I can appreciate the internal problems of the EC member states (recession, unemployment, financial crisis) and the consequent lack of energy to devote the time and resources to solving someone else's problem. Nevertheless, if the EC trade and membership policy towards the four Central European countries is not changed, then political instability and social unrest in the region will soon sweep away any hope for establishing efficient democratic systems in the most western part of the former Soviet bloc.

If Central European reform does not succeed, the whole of Europe will be destabilised. And if this happens, millions of people in other Eastern European countries will lose their remaining hope in a working and prosperous democracy. If I were a Western European politician, I would be afraid of this prospect much more than of scrapping Maastricht's subtle legal issues.

Yours sincerely,

VLADIMIR PETRUS

Prague, Czechoslovakia

29 October

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