The European Council is expected to endorse new road maps for negotiation, as well as increased financial assistance, to help Bulgaria and Romania prepare for EU accession in 2007.
Romania and Bulgaria, the two accession candidates scheduled to join the Union in 2007, are due to receive an improved pre-accession aid package on 13 December from EU leaders gathering in Copenhagen. The assistance provides support for the improvement of their transport infrastructure, farm sector and the implementation of free-market reforms and the EU’s environmental legislation.
The package, based on a Commission proposal, would include an increase in their shared pre-accession aid by 20 per cent to 1.23 billion euro in 2004. The amount would further increase in 2005 to 1.33 billion and in 2006 to 1.43 billion euro. Additional assistance would be conditional on the progress made in line with the road maps, as well as on the two countries’ ability to improve their fund management capacity.
Another main enlargement issue discussed at the European Council meeting is a decision to provide Turkey with a date to start accession negotiations. Following the Presidency announcement on 12 December of a December 2004 date for the evaluation of political criteria for Turkey after which negotiations could begin, sources reported a Turkish delegate as saying that even though this decision would set Turkish negotiations back by one year, “this is a binding decision and it means our candidacy has come to an irreversible state and the clock has started ticking.”
Following the approval of the financial package by the EU-15 on 12 December, final negotiations will be conducted on 13 December with the current 10 accession candidates. If everything goes as planned, by the end of the day on 13 December, the final list of candidates to join the EU in 2004 should be available. The Danish Presidency, however, has indicated that talks could continue into Saturday 14 December, if necessary.