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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Seville summit - what did it achieve?
Paul Reynolds

The Seville summit set itself three main tasks:

  • Take decisions on coping with the problem of illegal immigration
  • Inform the 10 countries which want to join about the state of their negotiations
  • Reform its own procedures
How did it do?

Immigration and asylum

This was a mixed bag. There was some movement towards the adoption of common policies (to which the EU committed itself at a meeting in Finland in 1999) though this is still a slow process. The EU is seeking a balance between shutting out those who have no right to stay and better integrating those who do.

The summit agreed to:

  • Increase security at external borders with joint operations at ports and airports, the creation of a special unit of heads of border control from member states, set up a network of liaison officers and initiate a study for using EU money.
  • Pass new rules encouraging increased penalties for people smuggling.
  • Review visa requirements for outside countries.
  • Adopt by the end of the year a policy of speeded up repatriations for those who do not qualify (especially to Afghanistan)
  • Speed up the adoption of common rules for the treatment of asylum seekers

Most contentious issue

On the most contentious immigration issue - the possible use of sanctions against countries not cooperating with the EU - there was a compromise between those like Britain and Spain, which wanted tough warnings, and others led by Sweden and France who were worried about what kind of signal this sends to poorer countries.

The compromise was framed in the following language:

  • The EU "may unanimously find that a third country has shown an unjustified lack of cooperation in joint management of migration flows. (It) may adopt measures..without jeopardising the objectives of development cooperation."
  • It also said: "inadequate co-operation could hamper the establishment of closer relations."
This is all rather vague and allows for a decision either way, which is why both sides will claim success.

That is the nature of EU summits.

Enlargement

The summit offered a reassurance to the 10 candidate countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) that they should be able to finish negotiations by the end of the year, sign a Treaty of Accession in 2003 and join in 2004.

However, there was also a warning. This would be possible "only if each country adopts a realistic and constructive approach."

This warning was designed to reduce expectations, from Poland for example, that they can expect a pot of gold when they join, especially for their farmers.

The Seville summit avoided the main problem of negotiating a deal, but said that a decision should be taken "by early November".

Germany, which is worried at the cost of enlargement as it is the main contributor, has already said that November is a target, not a deadline.

So expect more on all this later in the year, especially at a special summit in Brussels in October and at the Copenhagen summit in December.

There was one other important development on enlargement:

Reassurance to Ireland

A statement was agreed affirming Ireland's neutrality and saying that Ireland is not "party to any plans to develop a European army".

This should help the Irish government in a new referendum on the Nice Treaty approving enlargement, which the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told the summit would be put to the people this autumn.

Summit reform

The Seville meeting did agree on some modest reforms, the most interesting of which is to allow TV cameras in for part of the opening debate and for the formal vote on issues and an explanation of the vote (rather like the UN Security Council).

The real negotiations would still be in secret.

The summit meetings will in future last for one full day, preceded by a meeting the evening before of the heads of state or government and with delegations cut to a maximum of 20.

Seville was also notable for what did not happen.

France and Germany, for so long and so often the engine room of the EU, are currently not seeing eye to eye - the Germans think the French are letting their spending get out of control and are not willing to reform farm subsidies - so there was an air of the EU being a bit adrift at the moment.


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