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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 02:13 GMT 03:13 UK
Danish warning launches EU role
European Union flags
European Union expansion is the top priority

The Danish Government has set out its priorities for its presidency of the European Union over the next six months.

The Foreign Minister, Per Stig Moller, said one issue would dominate the agenda - completing negotiations by the end of 2002 with up to 10 countries who want to join the EU.


We have a historic and moral obligation to seize the present opportunity to consolidate peace and create the basis for progress across the entire continent

Per Stig Moller, Danish Foreign Minister
Any delay, he warned, could mean postponing enlargement for years.

The Danish presidency, which begins on Monday, has a lot on its plate.

The search for more effective measures against crime and international terrorism, controversial issues of immigration and asylum, how to help manage EU policy towards the Middle East, to name but a few.

But everyone knows that enlargement is the top priority.

Complex negotiations

Ten countries from eastern and central Europe and from the Mediterranean are supposed to complete years of complex negotiations about joining the EU by December, when the EU will hold a summit in Copenhagen.

Illegal immigrants
Immigration is another hot political issue

Mr Moller said the candidate countries have made huge efforts to be ready, and the EU has to deliver on its promises.

The alternative, he warned, could be years of delay.

"My recommendation to all is put short-sighted interests aside for the larger, historical perspective, uniting our continent by finalising negotiations in Copenhagen," he urged.

"We have a historic and moral obligation to seize the present opportunity to consolidate peace and create the basis for progress across the entire continent," he added.

Difficult issues

No one is under any illusion, though, about the fact that there are difficult issues ahead.

One of them is the level of farm subsidies to be given to prospective new members.

Another, the continuing division of the island of Cyprus - one of the countries which expects to join the EU.

There is also the fear that Irish voters may again reject in a referendum the Treaty of Nice - the document which makes enlargement possible.

And there are unresolved issues surrounding the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Lithuania and Poland.

Denmark will have to deal with all of these and more, and it knows there is little room for error.

See also:

28 Jun 02 | Europe
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08 May 02 | Europe
08 Apr 02 | Europe
04 Feb 02 | Europe
14 Jun 01 | Europe
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