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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 03:58 GMT
EU hopefuls 'on track'
Docks on Kama river
The report warns of economic crisis in Poland
By BBC correspondent Oana Lungescu in Brussels

Ten applicant states are to be told on Tuesday that they are on track to join the European Union by 2004.

This year's European Commission enlargement reports will mix optimism with caution.

Describing progress made by the applicant countries as impressive, the European Commission concludes that the best prepared among them should be ready to finish membership talks by the end of 2002, but says it will only name them next year.

The commission voices concern about corruption, fraud and economic crime

As the global economy slows down in the wake of 11 September, the commission will reassure the applicant countries that enlargement will not be delayed.

It will also tell EU governments that the current budget will be sufficient for admitting up to 10 new countries, mostly from Central Europe.

Some fear that subsidies for the new members could increase the EU budget by up to 50%.

But the European Commission appears confident it can tackle the sensitive issues of farming and regional aid early next year.

Poland fears

The commission warns of a deep economic crisis in the biggest applicant country, Poland.

But it says economic growth in central Europe has been higher than in the EU and describes most central and southern European applicants as functioning market economies, with the exception of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

The commission voices concern about corruption, fraud and economic crime, which it says remain widespread in many candidate countries.

It calls for more action to tackle the trafficking of women and children and to protect the Roma.

And it says it will launch an action plan to strengthen the judiciary and the public administrations, which will prove crucial if most former communist countries are to become effective members of the European Union by 2004.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Business
Prodi calls for economic discipline
21 Sep 01 | Business
EU finance ministers in crisis talks
20 Sep 01 | Business
EU considers aid for airlines
10 Jul 01 | Business
Ministers reject EU tax plan
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