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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 15:09 GMT
Poland 'must shape up for Europe'
By Oana Lungescu
BBC correspondent in Brussels

Poland is to be told that it is the worst prepared of the 10 countries set to join the European Union next May.

In European Commission draft reports seen by the BBC, Poland is warned it needs to address nine issues of serious concern if it is to be ready in time.

The reports also show that Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia each have issues of serious concern to tackle.

As the biggest of the 10 countries lining up to join the EU, Poland has always had more problems than most.

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller has to get his country ready by May

But these reports, due out next Wednesday, warn Poland to take immediate and decisive action if it is to be ready for EU membership in time.

One of the most serious concerns is the delay in setting up a computerised farm inventory, which could block billions of euros in EU subsidies for Polish farmers.

Another criticism concerns food safety controls and hygiene standards, which may lead the EU to ban meat exports from Poland.

This is one of the penalties the EU could apply from next year, but some in the European Commission fear that an explicit threat now would further weaken the fragile Polish Government.

'Urgent measures'

Jean Christophe Filori, a spokesman for the commission, told the BBC that the reports were not a school exercise aiming to punish bad pupils.

"The only question," he said, "is whether these problems can be addressed before accession next May and our answer is 'Yes, provided urgent measures are taken immediately'."

The reports also show that Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia each have four issues of serious concern to tackle, from agriculture to the steel sector, while Slovenia is top of the class, with only one pressing problem.

Bulgaria and Romania, which hope to join the EU in 2007, both receive encouraging progress reports.

But trafficking in human beings continues to be a serious problem for Bulgaria, while Romania will be told it is close to being a functioning market economy, but not quite there.

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