The European Community (EC), in particular, took upon itself the role of the key external player in the political and economic restructuring programs in Eastern Europe. It successfully used a combination of aid packages and advice-giving, to frame its political and economic relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. For their part, the Eastern states, hoping for a quick path to a convertible currency and EU membership, fully embraced the free market philosophy by swallowing the bitter pill of shock therapy, mass privatization and deregulation. The Eastern Europeans have gradually come to a significant twofold realization. First, that membership is not likely to be offered any time soon. And second, that there are significant barriers to the strengthening of ties with the EU. The EU eventually responded to the growing pleas for membership by announcing that the special relationship between Western and Eastern Europe would be assured through association agreements pursuant to Article 235 of the Treaty of Rome. Initially, the EU did not intend to make any reference in the Europe Agreements to future membership of the Association countries. A major indicator in the Europe Agreements, which highlights the EU's fundamental concern over its own interests rather than assisting Eastern Europe in the transition process, are the trade provisions. In essence, these maintain significant, potentially long-term barriers to trade between the EC and the East, particularly in sensitive sectors such as steel, textiles and agriculture. A second obstacle to the Associate countries' accession are the relatively weak institutional links created by the Europe Agreements. Convergence of laws is another important condition which needs to be satisfied before membership is granted to the Eastern European applicants. The present approach excludes the Eastern Europeans from exemption from the EU's anti-dumping law; it shuts them out of most of the EU's decision making; and it limits the effectiveness of their attempts to harmonise their legislation with the EU. Taken collectively, it seems certain that these exclusions will seriously restrict the Associates' prospects of rapid integration into the EU. The compromise may involve complicated negotiations between member states and also with potential applicants.