East Europe must remind EU of free trade rules: Poland

24th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Amid tension about western EU states’ protectionism plans, Eastern European nations must unite to ensure fair competition remains in the EU, stresses Poland’s foreign minister.

BRUSSELS – Eastern European nations must speak with one voice to refuse protectionism, Poland's foreign minister said Monday amid tension about state aid offered by western EU states to industry.

"I expect rules of fair competition to be maintained in Europe," Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters ahead of special regional summit in Brussels on Sunday.

That summit, a Polish initiative, will immediately precede a meeting of all 27 EU heads of state and government in the Belgian capital.

The nine nations involved in the 1 March mini-summit - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia - are among the EU nations worst-hit by the economic crisis.

"I hope the meeting will express support to the commission as the keeper of the free flow of people, goods and services," said Sikorski, on the margins of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

"We have to be particularly vigilant about protectionism," he added.

The Czech Republic and France, the current and previous holders of the EU's rotating presidency, have been at the forefront of a growing row in Europe with central and eastern European members becoming increasingly concerned that their western partners are engaging in protectionism in order to save or boost their own flagging industries.

The Czechs have been particularly incensed by a call by President Nicolas Sarkozy for French automakers to keep jobs at home, perhaps at the expense of jobs elsewhere.

The Italians and Spanish have also announced measures to boost their flagging auto sectors.

AFP / Expatica

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