Look East Again, Europe

The EU's historic decision to admit eight former communist countries as members must not be create a new division between Eurasia's haves and have nots. Instead, the Union needs to turn its attention further east - to its new neighbours and the other countries of the former Soviet Union.

The EU spent 9billion euros between 1999 and 2002 to prepare Central European and Baltic candidate countries for membership - 10 times the amount it spent on Central Asia's impoverished non-candidate countries. The EU will spend over 30billion euros integrating its new members into the Union. It is in the EU's economic and security interests to extend that generosity further eastward to assist the development of stable market-economies in Central Asia, the Caucasus and other CIS countries.

Poverty and under-development undermine security and democracy. They fuel cross-border organised crime, trafficking in human beings and illicit migration, as well as the drugs trade, religious extremism and terrorism. Afghanistan is a stark warning of what happens when the world turns its back on an impoverished country in a volatile region. Expanding Europe's common economic space to all territories of the former Soviet bloc will contribute to security and prosperity across the region.

In many respects, the former Soviet republics are less well-placed than their former communist neighbours to the West to cope with the transition to a market economy. For some, indeed, the challenges look almost insurmountable.