New members from end of 2002?

Sweden’s Prime Minister Persson says first enlargement is possible from end of 2002

Sweden’s Prime Minister Göran Persson, representing the Swedish Presidency, said it was still possible for new members to enter the Union from the end of 2002. In his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 17 January, Mr Persson said “no issue is as decisive for the European Union’s future and the development of Europe as the welcoming of new members to the Union”.

The Swedish prime minister pledged to “pave the way for a political breakthrough in the negotiations” under the Swedish Presidency during the first half of 2001. He warned, however, that the candidate countries should vigorously work on their reforms to make that breakthrough possible.

The Swedish Presidency will try to move forward faster with the best prepared candidate countries, said Mr Persson. He announced that the European Council meeting in June would evaluate the progress of the enlargement process and provide the necessary guidelines for its successful conclusion. However, he did not mention the possibility of enlargement dates being set at the Gothenburg summit.

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