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The United States and western Europe must encourage economic growth and political stability in the east European countries It is clearly in the interest of both the United States and western Europe to encourage freedom and internal stability in central and eastern Europe as well as the successful integration of central and eastern Europe into the Western democratic community of nations A variety of bilateral and multilateral forums and policies can reinforce the consolidation of political and economic freedom in central and eastern Europe as well as their integration with the West Among European institutions the European Union EU undoubtedly has the most potential for encouraging the political economic and security integration of Europe The EU established by 6 European nations in 1957 has grown to encompass 15 countries Originally a tightly focused mechanism for lowering economic barriers in western Europe the EU has been evolving more recently into an instrument for economic and political integration among western European nations For obvious reasons central and east European nations would like to join the EU The Czech Republic Hungary Poland Romania and Slovakia have all applied for EU membership Slovenia and Bulgaria are likely to do so before long The EU has made a formal commitment to begin serious review of requests for admission by mid 1997 although this process may well be delayed Any actual admissions would at the earliest begin around the year 2000 it is quite possible that they would commence several years later EU expansion is on a slow track for several reasons First even without the question of adding new EU members the process of political and particularly economic integration is somewhat controversial As the costs to individual nations of participating in EU policies become clearer to the average citizen the likelihood of complete economic integration is increasingly questioned in western Europe Second a more general debate continues about the merits of widening versus deepening the EU Put simply the
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