Chirac and Schröder give green light for United Europe

The Brussels Summit is set to approve EU enlargement talks with 10 candidate countries after the French President Jacques Chirac and the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder reached a deal to freeze farm spending from 2007.

Just before the start of the Summit on Thursday evening, 24
October, France and Germany agreed on the following plan:

  • farm subsidies for the new Member States will be phased in over
    a period of three years, starting in 2004;
  • farm subsidies will not increase beyond the rate of inflation
    from 2007 to 2013.

The final deal will probably include the British
annual rebate from the EU budget which is up for renegotiation in
2006. British diplomats insist that the rebate, secured in 1984 by
the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is non-negotiable.

The Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen,
who chairs the European Council, said that the deal was endorsed at
a working dinner of the leaders on Thursday night. It now has to be
formally by the European Council. Mr Rasmussen expressed confidence
that “the presidency will get a clear mandate to finalise accession
negotiations with the candidate countries”.

The Brussels Summit is expected to take
decisions on the following issues:

  • back the Commission proposal to conclude negotiations with 10
    candidate countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary,
    Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) in
    December this year so they can join the EU in 2004;
  • level of farm subsidies for the new Member States: the
    Commission proposed to start with 25 per cent in the first year of
    enlargement and gradually increase them to 100 per cent by
    2013;
  • level of structural and cohesion funds subsidies for the
    poorest regions in the new Member States: the Commission proposed
    25.5 billion euro between 2004 and 2006, but Germany wants the
    figure limited to 21 billion euro;
  • level of compensations to prevent the new Member States from
    becoming net contributors to the EU budget from the start of their
    membership: most governments agree that none of the candidates –
    all of whom are poorer than the current members – should
    immediately become net contributors, but some disagree with the
    Commission proposal that none of the new members should be worse
    off in 2004 than in 2003, the last year before accession;
  • Romania and Bulgaria: the two countries that are not included
    in the first wave of enlargement, are due to receive a new roadmap
    for their EU accession, and increased pre-accession funding;
  • Turkey: before taking any further decisions concerning this
    candidate the EU wants to wait for the results of the 3 November
    general elections and for Turkey’s co-operation in negotiations on
    the divided island of Cyprus as well as on a NATO-EU deal on rapid
    reaction forces;
  • Kaliningrad: the EU and Moscow are negotiating on the transit
    between Russia and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad which will be
    surrounded by EU territory after enlargement to Poland and
    Lithuania. The final decision is due at the EU-Russia Summit on 11
    November.

 

The cap on agriculture spending was demanded by the four
biggest net contributors to the EU budget -
Germany, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden, who
had been warning that enlargement to 10 poorer and more agrarian
countries would be unaffordable without phasing out the farm
subsidies.

France, backed by Spain, Ireland and Greece, had
been defending the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) because
it is the biggest beneficiary of the farm subsidies.

The Netherlands could object to the deal because
they had insisted that farm subsidies should not be phased in for
the candidate countries without an end to the existing level of
agricultural funding in the EU. The Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter
Balkenende said that EU leaders must discuss the CAP budget beyond
2006.

 

The 15 EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on 24 and 25
October to prepare the financial arrangements for the block's
enlargement to 10 new Member States in 2004.

 

Formal invitations to the 10 candidate countries will be
issued at the Copenhagen European Council on 12 and 13 December.

Enlargement negotiations are due to be concluded
at Copenhagen, and the Accession Treaty is to be signed at the
Athens Summit in April 2003.

The EU is due to expand to 10 new members in
2004.

 

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