Central European nations present plan for stronger EU

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2017 1:12 PM
Central European nations present plan for stronger EU

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Four Central European nations have hammered out proposals for the European Union that are intended to strengthen the voice of member nations and avoid divisions, Poland's prime minister said Thursday.

Beata Szydlo spoke following a meeting with her counterparts from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The meeting was held days ahead of the March 9-10 EU summit in Brussels and a special March 25 anniversary summit in Rome. A key issue at these meetings will be the future standing of the currently 28-member bloc after Britain leaves.

Szydlo said that the joint declaration of the so-called Visegrad Group for a "better Europe" was agreed on Thursday and will be presented in Rome.

It calls for EU institutions to take care of issues directly concerning Europeans, like security, protected borders, dignity, justice and equal treatment for each of the member states, Szydlo told a news conference.

One "serious problem" cited by the group was the lack of uniform food standards throughout the EU, which some central European members say means they receive inferior food.

"We believe there is a double standard on the European Union market," said Hungary's Viktor Orban.

"We have to avoid ... having Europe use our countries and markets as a garbage dump," Orban said.

The group appealed to EU officials to take a "serious approach" to the issue.

The declaration also calls for a strong EU market with no protectionism or divisions and for greater control by member nations over the legislative and decision-making processes. The group, which joined the club in 2004, says that EU decisions are made in Brussels by politicians who do not seek the opinions of the member nations.

Szydlo's talks with Orban, Slovakia's Robert Fico and Bohuslav Sobotka of the Czech Republic were also believed to have included the Polish government's opposition to a second term for Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, as European Council head.

Tusk's 2 ½-year term ends in May. He is the only candidate for the position and enjoys general support, but is the long-time political rival in Poland of the leader of Poland's ruling conservative party.

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This story has been corrected to show Orban's first name is spelled Viktor, not Victor; and to show the declaration is for a "better Europe" not "better union."

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Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report