EU gears up for signature of historic Accession Treaty

The leaders of 15 EU Member States and 10 future
members will meet in Athens on 16 April to sign the historic
Accession Treaty that will reunite the former Cold War foes 14
years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The membership of the EU will increase from the current 15
to 25 on 1 May 2004, when Cyprus, the Czech Republic,
Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland,
Slovakia and Slovenia are due to become members. From the
moment of signing, the 10 future members will gain observer
status in the European Union, which gives them the right of
attending Council meetings and having MEP observers in the
European Parliament until the time of accession.

This will be the largest enlargement in
the EU’s history (see our

) and will require a fundamental reform of the Union’s
institution and policy-making processes to preserve the
Union’s capacity for action. Enlargement also offers
enormous opportunities for the continent by making the EU
the largest market in the world and adding to its stature
in the world.

The ceremony of the signature of the
Treaty of Accession will take place in Athens on 16 April.
During the informal meeting of the European Council, the
leaders of the current and future Member States will
discuss recent developments regarding the European
Convention. The President of the Convention, Valéry
Giscard d’Estaing, will address the meeting.

The leaders will express their views on
the following institutional issues:

  • how to ensure a greater continuity in the presidency
    of the European Council and the other formations of the
    Council;
  • the size and the composition of the European
    Commission after the enlargement to 27 members;
  • the nomination and the powers of the President of the
    Commission;
  • the nomination and the powers of an eventual “Foreign
    Minister”;
  • the role of an eventual formation
    (Conference/Congress), composed from representatives of
    the national parliaments and of the European
    Parliament.

The leaders are also expected to address
the issue of post-war Iraq and the role of the United
Nations. EU leaders hope the US will accept a leading role
for the UN.

The informal European Council will be
followed by a European Conference on 17 April. It will
bring together the leaders and foreign ministers of the 15
Member States, 10 future members, three candidate countries
and the neighbouring countries of the enlarged Union. The
Greek Presidency of the EU invited Switzerland, the EFTA
countries, the Stabilization and Association Process
countries, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, as well as the
Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan to this
meeting. The European Conference is a multilateral forum
for discussing issues of common interest, such as foreign
and security policy, justice and home affairs, regional
co-operation or economic matters. It met for the first time
in London on 12 March 1998.

 

The External Relations Council formally decided on the
admission of the 10 future Member States at its meeting in
Luxembourg on 14 April 2003. Its decision clears the way
for the signature of the Accession Treaty. As of 17 April
2003, the EU will welcome the future members as active
observers in the work of the Council and its preparatory
bodies.

The European Parliament

gave a resounding backing to the enlargement by endorsing
the accession of 10 future Member States with 458 votes in
favour, 68 against and 41 abstentions on 9 April. The
Parliament's assent was a legal prerequisite for the
signature of the Accession Treaty.

In a letter to the EU leaders,
Costas Simitis, the Greek Pr ime Minister and
President-in-office of the European Council

, stated that "the enlarged Union guarantees a future of
peace, stability and prosperity for its members and
neighbours".

 

The Treaty of Accession is the result of accession
negotiations between the 15 EU Member States and 10
accession countries that were concluded in Copenhagen in
December 2003. It defines the accession conditions of the
10 future Member States and the consequent adaptations and
adjustments of the founding Treaties of the Union.

 

  • 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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