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EU approves admission of ten new members

EU approves admission of ten new members

The European Union has begun the process of enlargement: At the European Council meeting just concluded in Copenhagen the EU member states and the candidate countries agreed on a financial package for the first few years of enlargement. This will make it possible for the EU to admit ten new members in mid-2004.

Chancellor Schröder and Foreign Minister Fischer spoke of a "historical day" for Europe and, as such, for Germany. Membership talks with Turkey are to begin in 2005 at the earliest.

After what were, in part, difficult negotiations, the heads of state and government of the European Union, at their summit meeting in Copenhagen on December 13, reached an agreement with the ten candidate countries on a financial package for the first few years of enlargement. This will make it possible for the EU to admit Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, and Cyprus as of May 1, 2004.

At the conclusion of the meeting Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said: "This was a great day for Europe and, as such, for Germany as well," adding that the summit had made "a historical decision".

Schröder complimented the Danish Council Presidency as well as EU Enlargement Commission Günter Verheugen for their negotiating skills. Poland, facing probable budget problems in 2005 and 2006, recurrently voiced demands for increases in the financial package proposed by the Presidency, which provided 40.5 billion euros for all ten candidate countries for the years 2004 to 2006.

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A slightly improved offer finally brought the breakthrough: It was agreed that Poland will get an additional 100 millions euros -on the condition that this money be used to bring what will then be the longest stretch of EU border to the east up to "Schengen" standards. A further 300 million euros is to be mobilized for the other candidate countries. The final result was 1.8 billion euros less than the package that had been contemplated in Berlin in 1999.

"This is important for us as the largest net payer," Schröder noted.

The Copenhagen European Council laid out guidelines for continuing the process with those countries not involved in the current enlargement round. The intention is to move forward with accession for Romania and Bulgaria. Both countries will be supported in their aim to achieve membership in 2007. In Copenhagen the fifteen EU members also opened up the way for future accession talks with Turkey: If the country fulfills the necessary criteria by December 2004 and implements them in government practice it will be possible to begin talks very quickly. Chancellor Schröder expressed satisfaction at the result.

Apparently Turkey, too, has come to terms with the decision, he said. Schröder reiterated that what is involved here is not accession but rather the beginning of what will doubtless be long and difficult negotiations. Long transitional periods will have to be reckoned with in matters such as freedom of movement for workers.

The compromise reached was based for the most part on a joint proposal put forward by France and Germany at the beginning of December. In December 1999 Turkey became the thirteenth country to be granted candidate country status by the European Union. However, accession talks cannot be started until Turkey has fully complied with the EU's political criteria for membership. Although encouraging progress has been made in the recent past, there are still considerable deficits with regard to fulfillment of the so-called Copenhagen Criteria. This applies in particular to human rights, minority rights, democracy, as well as the rule of law. Chancellor Schröder called to mind the fact that an association agreement has existed with Turkey since 1963 and the country has been told for forty years now that it can look forward to full membership some day. This had to be taken into account in the decision.

Future of Europe

The European Union must continue to be governable with twenty-five or more member states. It needs to become more democratic, more capable of taking joint action, and easier for its people to understand. Creating the institutional prerequisites for this is the task of the Convention on the Future of Europe.

The need for deepening the European Union in this way cannot be emphasized enough, Schröder noted. The Copenhagener summit opened on the evening of December 12 with a report by Convention President Valérie Giscard d'Estaing on the current status of the work it is doing. The Convention will take up a very important topic in January when it begins deliberations on the future institutional architecture of Europe. Schröder indicated that if everything works out as planned it will be possible to conclude the Intergovernmental Conference that will follow the Convention at the Rome European Council in December 2003.

Other matters dealt with at the summit included the conclusion of an agreement between the EU and NATO allowing for use of NATO capabilities and structures as well as the Cyprus question, on which an agreement was not reached in Copenhagen. The European Council also adopted two separate declarations on the Middle East and on Iraq.

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