Candidate countries welcome timetable for enlargement and statement that process is irreversible despite Irish “No”
The Gothenburg Summit said: “The enlargement process is irreversible. Based on the progress achieved so far, the European Council reaffirms the road map as the framework for the successful completion of the enlargement negotiations. Provided that progress towards meeting the accession criteria continues at an unabated pace, the road map should make it possible to complete negotiations by the end of 2002 for those candidate countries that are ready. The objective is that they should participate in the European Parliament elections of 2004 as members.”
The target dates, mentioned in the Gothenburg conclusions, do not differ from those stated by the Nice Summit of December 2000: “In the European Council’s view, that strategy, together with the completion of the Intergovernmental Conference on institutional reform, will place the Union, in accordance with the objective set by the European Council in Helsinki, in a position to welcome those new Member States which are ready as from the end of 2002, in the hope that they will be able to take part in the next European Parliament elections.”
The main difference seems to be the wording: while the Nice European Council expressed “the hope” that the new Member States will be able to take part in the next European Parliament election, the Gothenburg Summit speaks of “the objective”. The Gothenburg Summit also said that candidate countries will be able to participate in the European Parliament elections even if their accession treaties will not have been formally ratified.