EP Foreign Affairs Committee approves accession of 10 candidates

Enlargement received strong support in the
European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels on
19 March 2003.

55 members voted in favour of the Committee Chairman Elmar
Brok’s report on the conclusion of enlargement
negotiations. There were two votes against and one
abstention.

The Committee also endorsed individual
reports on each of the 10 candidate countries. The votes on
the individual reports:

Candidate country Yes No Abstained
Czech Republic 54 2 1
Estonia 56 2 0
Cyprus 57 1 2
Latvia 55 1 2
Lithuania 57 1 2
Hungary 58 1 0
Malta 58 0 2
Poland 53 4 3
Slovenia 56 1 1
Slovakia 56 1 2

There was some controversy surrounding
the report on the Czech Republic because of the 1946 Benes
Decrees. The Committee resolved it with a compromise
amendment, which reads: “We assume that following the entry
of the new Member States, as per the treaty, all European
Union citizens in all countries have the same rights, and
cannot be discriminated against by any laws, judicial
decisions, or official measures.”

The European Parliament had waited for a
compromise on the part of the Czech Republic. It came on 15
March in the form of a political statement from the new
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who condemned as unacceptable
the deportation of the Sudeten Germans and the crimes
committed against them after World War II.

The Committee also adopted a
recommendation regarding the financing of enlargement,
which will be submitted to the plenary vote at the Brussels
session on 26 and 27 March. The MEPs have foreseen two
possible solutions to the problem of Annex XV of the
Accession Treaty, which breaches the Parliament’s
prerogative to have a say in budgetary matters. One of the
solutions is to remove Annex XV from the Treaty, and the
other to say that the figures in the Annex are of
indicative nature. It the Parliament and the Council reach
an agreement on this in the following days, the
recommendation will not be submitted to a vote in the
plenary.

 

The Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman
Elmar Brok

stated the vote "marks a significant step on the road to
completing the union of the European continent. If the
Parliament as a whole takes the Committee's lead on April
9, then nothing would stand in the way of the ceremony
marking the signing of the EU accession treaties under the
Acropolis in Athens a week later, on April 16".

In the
Parliament

's view, the inclusion of maximum spending figures in a
treaty contravenes the Interinstitutional Agreement of 6
May 1999, according to which any adjustment to the
financial perspective in the event of enlargement is a
matter for a joint dec ision by the Council and the
European Parliament. It also introduces discrimination
between current and future Member States, which would be
subject to different rules, and it runs counter to the
provisions of the treaties currently in force.

The
Committee of Permanent Representatives

(COREPER) decided on 12 March to use the Commission's
proposal for a Decision on the adjustment of the financial
perspective for enlargement as the basis for the Council's
discussion of this issue. The Commission proposed that over
the period 2004-2006, the annual spending ceilings shall be
raised by the corresponding expenditure requirements
resulting from the accession of ten new Member States.

 

The vote in the Foreign Affairs Committee is the first step
towards the ratification of the EU Accession Treaty with 10
candidate countries. The ratification in the European
Parliament, due to take place on 9 April, is the legal
pre-requisite for the formal signing of the Treaty in
Athens on 16 April.

However, the Parliament refuses to
ratify the Treaty in its current form because the deal on
the financing of enlargement, attached to the Treaty as
Annex XV, takes away from the Parliament its power of
co-decision over the EU budget by incorporating the
budgetary transfers to the new Member States (

see EURACTIV of 17
March 2003

).

 

The ratification of the Accession Treaty in the European
Parliament is due to take place at the plenary session of
the European Parliament planned for 7-11 April, just in
time for the formal signature of the Treaty in Athens on 16
April.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary,
and Cyprus are to become EU members on 1 May 2004, provided
that the 15 Member States and 10 candidates ratify the
Treaty successfully and in time.

 

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