Swedish Presidency insists on setting enlargement dates

Swedish Presidency wants to set EU enlargement dates at Gothenburg Summit and allow participation of non-Member States in 2004 European election

Not all Member States agree that the EU should commit to a firm timetable at a time when it is still not clear what course negotiations on agriculture and regional policy will take. Both issues represent a huge cost to the EU budget, therefore the Member States insist that regional subsidies should be phased in gradually for the new members. The EU also stated that direct payments to eastern European farmers should be withheld because there is no need for loss of income substitution in Central and Eastern Europe where farm produce prices are likely to rise rather than fall.

The Swedish Presidency of the EU argues that clear timetables would maintain the pace of the enlargement process and reassure the candidate countries that the EU is willing to expand at the earliest possible date. Several other Member States believe that the Union’s intention was stated clearly enough at the Nice Summit in December 2000, when the fifteen leaders adopted a “road map” for completing the accession negotiations by the end of 2002. The Nice Summit also declared that the most advanced candidates could participate in the European Parliament elections in 2004.

 

The outcome of negotiations in 2002 is far from certain as EU Member States are expected to defend their interests against the candidate countries. Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal are expected to insist that the Union's poorer regions should not shoulder the cost of enlargement to much poorer countries. France is expected to defend its position in the Common Agricultural Policy, which in its present shape could not sustain expansion to countries with extensive and inefficient agriculture, such as Poland.

 

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh insists the EU should set a clear timetable for completing accession negotiations with the most advanced candidate countries at the Gothenburg Summit on 15 and 16 June. She said that the EU should confirm it would complete negotiations with some candidates by the end of 2002 and admit them in early 2004, as soon as their Accession Treaties are ratified.

 

The Swedish Presidency wants the EU to go further at the Gothenburg Summit and invite the candidate countries to participate in the 2004 EU elections even without their Accession Treaties having been ratified. Mrs Lindh said those countries could take up their seats in the EU once the ratification procedures are complete.

 

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