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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Schroeder sells EU in the east
Schroeder with Siemens worker
Schroeder began his trip at the Siemens factory in Greifenswald
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is visiting the Polish city of Szeczin on Tuesday, on the second day of his 10-day tour of Germany's eastern border regions.


I think that we can make clear that the expansion of the European Union offers more in the way of chances than the things people fear

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
The tour aims to calm fears on both sides of the border about the enlargement of the European Union to include Germany's eastern neighbours.

Mr Schroeder will also be hoping to win crucial support in the east ahead of next year's general elections.

But the BBC's correspondent in the region, Ray Furlong, says Mr Schroeder may face tough questions from his Polish hosts who are angered by German demands for a long transition period before workers from Eastern Europe would be allowed to work inside the EU.

Labour fears

Germans in the still deprived eastern regions are worried by a possible influx of cheap labour once Poland and the Czech Republic join the union.

"I think that we can make clear that the expansion of the European Union offers more in the way of chances than the things people fear," Mr Schroeder said.

East German border guards as the Wall came down
Memories of the wall highlight the continuing divides
"That can only be done with patient explanation with patient work."

Mr Schroeder will try to reinforce this message with a visit to a joint German, Polish and Danish military corps and the local German-Polish Chamber of Commerce in Szeczin.

He will hold talks with Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and businessmen from both countries on regional co-operation.

Citizens of the new EU members will not be allowed to work in other member states in the first two years after joining, and existing individual states within the EU will be able to extend that ban for another three to five years.

This is still much less than Germany had hoped for.

Electioneering

Mr Schroeder's visit to the east comes a day after ceremonies to mark the 40th anniversary of the building of the Berlin wall, which highlighted the differences which still remain between the two halves of the long-divided country.

Unemployment in the east remains about twice as high - around 18% - as in the west.

Mr Schroeder has said that there will be no more federal hand-outs to help the deprived regions.

However, over the course of his tour, which lasts until 24 August and takes in 34 towns, he will be keen to get eastern public opinion onside ahead of the 2002 general elections.

The voting patterns of the newly democratised east have proved crucial for the winning parties in all the elections since reunification in 1990.

Mr Schroeder will get his first indication of the public mood in the Berlin city elections due to be held in October, in which the former communists are expected to do well.

See also:

14 Jun 01 | Europe
The candidate countries
12 Jun 01 | Europe
Europe squabbles over expansion
14 May 01 | Europe
EU deadlock on workers' rights
12 Aug 01 | Europe
Timeline: Berlin Wall
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