Hungary accepts controversial EU curbs for its workers and takes the lead in enlargement negotiations
The following chapters were closed at the negotiation meetings between the EU and twelve candidates on 12 June:
- Bulgaria: Company law (10 chapters closed in total);
- Cyprus: Free movement of persons (22 chapters closed in total);
- Czech Republic: Culture and audiovisual (19 chapters closed in total);
- Estonia: none (19 chapters closed in total);
- Hungary: Free movement of persons; Free movement of capital; Taxation (22 chapters closed in total);
- Latvia: Freedom to provide services; Social policy and employment (15 chapters closed in total);
- Lithuania: Freedom to provide services; Fisheries (17 chapters closed in total);
- Malta: none (16 chapters closed in total);
- Poland: none (16 chapters closed in total);
- Romania: none (6 chapters closed in total);
- Slovakia: Customs union (17 chapters closed in total);
- Slovenia: none (20 chapters closed in total).
The Swedish Presidency said the recent progress in enlargement negotiations was "a qualitative step forward in the enlargement process". The Presidency met the objectives, set out in the "Road Map" for enlargement negotiations, adopted by the EU leaders at the Nice Summit in December 2000.
The closure of negotiations on environment with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia is seen as the first major breakthrough in enlargement negotiations as this topic is one of the most difficult. The Swedish Presidency also scored a success in reaching EU common negotiation positions on the free movement of people and capital. The Czech Republic and Hungary have accepted the EU's offer of transition periods for the sale of real estate to non-nationals, and the Czech Republic accepted the EU's request for curbs on its citizens seeking employment in the EU up to seven years after accession.
For the first time negotiations led to real differentiation between the candidate countries, with candidates of the second group catching up with the frontrunners. Lithuania and Slovakia, who started negotiating in 2000, have overtaken Poland who started negotiating in 1998.
EU Enlargement Commissioner GýVerheugen said on 12 June that Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Cyprus were expected to complete negotiations by the end of 2002. Poland is now seen as lagging behind the frontrunners, and will have difficulty accepting controversial compromises before the September general election.
The Belgian Presidency of the EU, which takes over from Sweden on 1 July, will continue negotiations on competition policy, transport policy, energy, taxation, customs union, agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs, and financial control, as scheduled by the "Road Map". All the financial issues will be dealt with under the Spanish Presidency in the first half of 2002. Negotiations with the most advanced countries could be concluded by the end of 2002, allowing them to join by the end of 2004.