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Europe

New EU Members Should be Treated Equally, Says Polish Minister

European Union veterans should treat newly-entered members from Central and Eastern Europe as equals, and give them the same chance to join the euro as old members, Poland's minister for Europe said on Sunday.

An EU flag is inspected at a small private company which manufactures flags in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia

EU hopefuls in Central and Eastern Europe want rules changes to help them out

"Nobody should preach to us now what kind of stability rules need to be kept (to join the euro), because some of the economies in the region are much more stable, and certainly the public finances are much more healthy than in many of the euro zone countries," Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told the DPA press agency.

And the EU's largest newcomer is less than happy with the fact that international talks on the financial crisis led by the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies have no representation from Central and Eastern Europe.

"None of those people around the table are actually from a country that is in the catching-up period in the EU, you have lots of old member states: there is certainly an issue here," Dowgielewicz said.

Dowgielewicz was speaking ahead of an emergency summit of the EU's 27 member states in Brussels, and a pre-summit meeting of the bloc's nine new members from Central and Eastern Europe.

That pre-summit meeting should underline that "the EU needs a robust and unified response to the (economic) crisis, but just one response for everybody. You should not create two classes of membership," he said.

Calls for changes to euro zone rules

Wirtschaft Handel Geld Euro

EU hopefuls want the path to the euro to be made easier

The EU's newcomers have been hard hit by the economic crisis, with their currencies coming under massive pressure. On Tuesday, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said that the EU should speed up the process to allow newcomers into the euro zone by scrapping the rule that they first peg their currencies to the euro for two years.

This is the so-called Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II).

"We are not really so much concerned about the two-year waiting period ... but of course Mr Gyurcsany has a point, because when Italy joined, they were not in the ERM II for two years," Dowgielewicz said.

Poland is also concerned that current euro members are breaking the bloc's strict rules on government deficit spending - the stability and growth pact - in a bid to revive their economies.

"We are concerned about the rules of the stability and growth pact, which are being completely sidelined at the moment," Dowgielewicz said.

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