Deputy PM aims for EU integration talks in early 2000

Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamžík said on November 3 his country aimed to start negotiations on accession to the European Union in the first half of next year, when Portugal chairs the EU presidency.

"Depending on the decision to be adopted at the Helsinki summit, we would like to commence negotiations as soon as possible, hopefully during the Portuguese presidency," he said in a speech at the annual Global Panel Meeting in The Hague.

Slovakia hopes to join other European states - Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic - to be invited to full EU membership negotiations at the EU summit in Helsinki in December, chaired by Finland.

The 15 heads of state and government will base their decision on a recommendation by the European Commission, the EU's executive body, which in mid-October recommended letting six extra countries, including Slovakia, join accession talks.

Slovakia's accession bid may be hampered, as Austria has urged its neighbour to close down its unsafe nuclear reactors.

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