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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 16:15 GMT
Hungary awaits entry
Budapest central market
Budapest central market
By the World at One's Gillian Hargreaves

Hungary is a country preparing to join the European Union. Its preparations have taken ten years already.

When it does eventually join, its eastern border with the Ukraine , will be the easterly edge of the European union.

It will also be subject to the Schengen border agreement, a secure border with those countries outside the european union, but the free passage of people and goods within.

New security measures

But at the Tisabecs crossing the border guards reguarly pick up twenty or thirty illegal immigrants, who come from afar as Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

Now, millions of Euros are now being spent making Hungary's border secure. There's a new computer system, more guards and surveillance equipment.

Border guard
Border guard
But the man in charge of the border area Colonel Ishtvan Szepesi , thinks the gangs will always be better equipped than his men.

Back in Budapest , the EU commission ambassador Michael Lake assess all the preparations Hungary must make before they can join. He admits all of Hungarian law will change.

High inflation

In economic terms Hungary is fully intergrated into Europe. Its busy central market buzzes with shoppers. It has six per cent growth, twice the european average.

Seventy per cent of exports go to the EU member states and two thirds of goods going into Hungary are made in the EU. But there is high inflation and unemployment runs at thirty per cent in the eastern agricultural areas.

Meeting EU criteria

But at the foreign ministry they are still waiting for the European union to give them a definite date for Hungary's entry.

Before that can happen, Peter Gottfried the Europe minister has about five hundred measures he still has to implement.

Colonel Ishtvan Szepesi
Colonel Ishtvan Szepesi
He admits that border security is a high priority. But he says other measures, like the common agriculture policy, are too expensive to introduce until the EU gives him a date for accession.

And unless governments can agree at Nice on how the institutions can be reformed before enlargement, Hungary's entry will be delayed yet further.

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