Queuing up for EC membership?

A COMMUNIST country joining the capitalist Common Market? The idea may sound strange, but in the Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia plans to draft a petition calling for this country to join the European Community (EC) have begun to circulate.

The petition has not yet been drafted. But the discussion shows that people are becoming aware of Yugoslavia's need to cooperate more with the EC.

The reasons are obvious. By 1992, the people who live in the EC's member states will be living and working in a truly united market. Yugoslavia, like other non-aligned European countries such as Finland and Austria, cannot miss out on that op-portunity.

Yugoslavia's cooperation with the EC today is good and getting better. Almost 70 per-cent of the country's exports go to Western Europe. But two difficult questions arise if this trading relation is to be transformed into something stronger.

First, can Yugoslavia as a non-aligned, socialist country join an association composed of capitalist states which, with the exception of Ireland, are united by a military alliance?

This problem does not seem fatal. Claude Cheysson, the EC's Mediterranean representative, visited Yugoslavia earlier this year and noted that ``the fact that Yugoslavia is non-aligned does not represent an obstacle for its cooperation with the Common Market.''

The second question is whether Yugoslavia could face up to the free competition with Western Europe. Yugoslavia's economy is not nearly as strong as the British and German economies.

``We have the highest inflation, unemployment, foreign debt and the slowest economic growth in Europe,'' says Davor Savin, a respected Yugoslav economist. ``The doors of the Common Market for a country like Yugoslavia are closed.''

Even so, the Yugoslav government has shown a desire to liberalize the economy. It recently freed prices and began promoting private enterprise. When United States Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead, a former Wall Street banker, visited Belgrade in June, he was im-pressed.

``It is a revolution,'' he said. ``I would like to invest in Yugoslavia.''

In the view of many, Yugoslavia needs the benefits of solid ties with the strong Western economies to pursue its plans to open up its economy.

Communism and capitalism may not sound like an easy match. But the unlikely marriage makes sense for Yugoslavia.

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