European Parliament votes in favour of EU enlargement

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in
support of the Union’s enlargement to 10 new Member States at
the plenary session in Strasbourg on 9 April. The vote was made
possible by a compromise between the Parliament and the Council
on the financing of enlargement, reached on 8
April.

The resolution on the outcome of the enlargement
negotiations with 10 accession countries was approved by
458 votes in favour, 68 against with 41 abstentions. The
MEPs approved the accession of individual countries with
the following votes:

Country In favour Against Abstained
Czech Republic 489 39 37
Estonia 520 22 24
Cyprus 507 29 26
Latvia 522 22 24
Lithuania 521 22 24
Hungary 522 23 23
Malta 521 23 23
Poland 509 25 31
Slovenia 522 22 22
Slovakia 521 21 25

The agreement on the financing of
enlargement cleared the way for the Parliament to vote on
the Accession Treaty at its plenary session on 9 April. The
MEPs endorsed a report on the conclusions of the Copenhagen
negotiations on enlargement, prepared by the German
Conservative MEP Elmar Brok, which was adopted with near
unanimity by the Foreign Affairs Committee in March (

see EURACTIV of 20
March 2003

). The Parliament also voted on individual recommendations
on the accession of 10 future Member States. The
Parliament’s assent is a legal prerequisite for the
signature of the Accession Treaty at a special summit in
Athens on 16 April.

Under the agreement on the financing, a
joint declaration by the Council, the European Parliament
and the European Commission will ensure their respect for
the interinstitutional agreement of May 1999 on budgetary
discipline.

The Parliament and the Council also
agreed on a declaration by the Council that there would be
no discrimination against the new Member States and that
funding needed for Turkey, which has been accepted as a
candidate country, would be transferred from the budget
category for external policy to the budget category for
pre-accession strategy.

The Accession Treaty ratification will
open the door of the European Parliament for observers from
the 10 future Member States. On 1 May 2003, MEPs will
welcome to their ranks 162 observers from the 10 countries
whose accession negotiations were completed at the
Copenhagen European Council last December. Observers will
have seats in the Parliamentary Chamber but will not have
the right to speak, vote or be elected to positions of
responsibility. Their membership of political groups will
only be decided definitively on 1 May.

 

The EPP-ED Group Chairman Hans-Gert
Poettering

said: " This is an important and historic day, a day of
overwhelming joy and great gratitude." He underlined that
"the accession countries have already made major efforts
and still have work before them." "To those who believe
that our European House is not yet complete and therefore
they can not offer their approval, I would say to them, we
have now managed to get the Convention in place, and we
shall work very hard to make sure that there soon will be a
European Constitution. So all Europeans will be able to
address their future on the basis of the law. The fact is
that most Europeans are in favour of accession by all
countries. You are welcome to our Community of values. Let
us celebrate this old Europe which is constantly
reinvigorating itself. This is our hope for the future."

The European Liberal Democrat leader Graham
Watson

stated after the agreement was reached: "This crisis was
entirely of the Council's own making, and it is regrettable
that so much energy has had to be expended in resolving
this matter, casting a shadow over this week's enlargement
debate. However, the deal secured by Parliament's
negotiators offers a way out which Parliament should accept
in the vote tomorrow, as it safeguards our budgetary
powers."

The European Liberal Democrat budget rapporteur Jan
Mulder

, who took part in the negotiations with Council, said:
"The Council has agreed to a declaration which makes it
clear that the accession treaty is without prejudice to
Parliament's budgetary powers. On the issue of the amount
of funding for internal policies, we have secured 90% of
what Parliament deemed necessary, with agreement on a 540
million euro increase in today's prices. This is a deal
worth backing."

Reimer Böge, Parliament's rapporteur on the EU
enlargement budget

, welcomed the agreement, stating that "the Council agreed
to fully respect the budgetary rights of the European
Parliament as well as ensuring that the new Member States
were treated the same as existing Member States as regards
spending from the EU Budget." He added, however, that "in
the light of the historic event of EU enlargement, the
Council's attempt to break the Interinstitutional Agreement
on financial matters was an act of irresponsibility."

 

After a longstanding row, the European Parliament on 9
April endorsed the agreement with the Council on the
adjustment of the EU's Financial Perspective running up to
2006 by 540 million euros for internal policy.

The Parliament had earlier insisted on a
600 million euro increase of the budget for internal
policies in favour of the future Member States from 1 May
2004 to the end of 2006. The compromise ends the dispute
over Annex XV from the Treaty, which violates the
Parliament's right to co-decision in budgetary matters by
fixing the budget for the future Member States. The
Parliament initially demanded that Annex XV be removed from
the Accession Treaty.

The agreed increase of the budget will
leave an adequate margin to increase the budget available
for the many co-decision programmes such as Youth for
Europe, Socrates, and research programmes after
enlargement.

 

  • The Accession Treaty will be signed at a special
    summit in Athens on 16 April.
  • It will come into force once it has been ratified
    by the national parliaments of the 15 current and 10
    future Member States.
  • The accession is due to take place on 1 May
    2004.

 

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