The Danish Presidency is confident that the European Council can complete the enlargement negotiations with the 10 candidate states prior to or during the Copenhagen summit on 12-13 December. However, intense bargaining is foreseen until the very last minute.
Alongside the estimated 100 bilateral questions that need to be resolved before Copenhagen, the major bones of contention in the negotiations concern aid to farmers and the size of rebates paid to the candidates to ensure they do not become net contributors to the EU budget.
The candidate states are generally opposed to the idea that their farmers would receive only 25 per cent of the aid granted to current member states in 2004, the first year of membership. This sum is scheduled to increase to 100 per cent only over a 10-year period.
To improve on the original offers, Denmark has said the candidates should be allowed to top up this amount to 40 per cent, partly by diverting national funds destined for rural development into farmers’ pockets.
Meanwhile, the Presidency has been increasingly caught between the demands of the candidate countries and the concerns of the Member States. Last week, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen indicated that if the candidates hold out too far and too long, they risk missing out on the current round of enlargement.