The leaders of the 15 Member States named a list of ten candidate countries eligible to join the EU in 2004 at the Laeken summit on 15 December. Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Slovenia could be ready to join if the present rate of progress of the negotiations and reforms in the candidate countries is maintained.
The leaders said that enlargement is becoming irreversible, and that the Berlin European Council of March 1999 established the financial framework – the Agenda 2000 – permitting enlargement.
The summit said that the EU is determined to bring the accession negotiations with the candidate countries that are ready to a successful conclusion by the end of 2002, so that those countries can take part in the European Parliament elections in 2004 as members.
Only Bulgaria and Romania are singled out as countries that will not be able to join the EU in 2004. The European Council said it appreciates the efforts made by Bulgaria and Romania and would encourage them to continue on that course. “If those countries are to receive specific support, there must be a precise framework with a timetable and an appropriate roadmap, the objective being to open negotiations with those countries on all chapters in 2002,” said the 15 leaders.
As to Turkey, the EU leaders said it had made progress towards complying with the political criteria established for accession, in particular through the recent amendment of its constitution. “This has brought forward the prospect of the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey,” they stressed. They called on Turkey to continue its progress towards complying with both economic and political criteria, notably with regard to human rights. “The pre-accession strategy for Turkey should mark a new stage in analysing its preparedness for alignment on the acquis,” concluded the European Council.
The leaders also called on all the candidate countries to “continue their efforts energetically, in particular to bring their administrative and judicial capabilities up to the required level”.