Europe confirms 2004 expansion date

A EUROPEAN Union summit in the Spanish city of Seville on the June 22 weekend confirmed the 2004 target date for enlargement of the body, and determined that candidate countries would receive direct agricultural aid once they joined.
The amount of the aid, however, is to be set in early November, at which time the Union will announce its common policy on farm subsidies for candidate countries.
That will leave the entry candidates only a month to complete negotiations on the controversial agriculture docket of talks with the EU before another summit in Copenhagen in December, where the Union hopes to close entry talks with up to 10 applicant countries.


EC AMBASSADOR Eric van der Linden did not intend to speak so directly.
photo: TASR

A EUROPEAN Union summit in the Spanish city of Seville on the June 22 weekend confirmed the 2004 target date for enlargement of the body, and determined that candidate countries would receive direct agricultural aid once they joined.

The amount of the aid, however, is to be set in early November, at which time the Union will announce its common policy on farm subsidies for candidate countries.

That will leave the entry candidates only a month to complete negotiations on the controversial agriculture docket of talks with the EU before another summit in Copenhagen in December, where the Union hopes to close entry talks with up to 10 applicant countries.

The delay in the agricultural aid talks came after German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder asked they be held after late September elections in his country.

Both EU government heads and candidate country leaders expressed satisfaction with the result of the Seville session, however, and said the reduced time for negotiations would not cause problems in meeting the end-2002 deadline for closing entry talks.

"November doesn't mean a delay, in fact we have achieved a confirmation of the enlargement calendar," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, the host of the summit.

The summit participants added that the entry dates were still feasible as long as candidate countries continued the current pace of talks and legislative change required to enter the Union.

"Ten countries are still in the game, we have everything in our hands," said Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, who attended the Seville meeting.

"All we need is continuity," he said, adding he believed Slovakia would sign an entry treaty with the EU in March 2003 as planned.

EU diplomats have said that if former Slovak PM Vladimír Mečiar returns to power after September elections in the country, Slovakia may not be invited to join the Union. Slovakia was dropped from the first round of countries invited to start entry talks in 1997 because of concerns about autocratic behaviour by the 1994-1998 Mečiar government.

Noting that diplomats with Nato have been saying for months that Slovakia will not be invited to join the Alliance with the autocratic Mečiar in power, Eric van der Linden, head of the European Commission delegation in Bratislava, told the Austrian APA press agency on June 25 that "in the European Union we are more gentle, but we don't want Mečiar either".

Van der Linden said that with 70 per cent of Slovaks in favour of joining the EU - the highest level of any candidate country - citizens had to vote in September in line with the country's integration aims.

The EC delegation later said Linden's comments had not been meant for publication.

The Seville summit had also been expected to yield tougher action on immigration after the recent successes of far-right parties across Europe, but a proposal to apply economic sanctions against countries seen as not cooperating in the fight against illegal immigration failed because of opposition from France.

In the end, the summit participants agreed that member states would design a common asylum and immigration policy in the next 18 months, something candidate countries have long been requesting.

Slovakia in particular has suffered internationally as waves of its Roma citizens have migrated to EU states in the past five years, claiming persecution at home. The Slovak government has blamed the uneven asylum policies of EU member states for creating false hope among the Roma that their claims will be approved, as well as for creating a lure to the emigrants with generous refugee allowances.

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