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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
EU builds on Irish Yes vote
Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern steered his country to a Yes vote
With Ireland's endorsement of the Nice Treaty safely behind them, European Union leaders are set to tackle the issue of how to pay for expansion.

Foreign ministers gather in Luxembourg on Monday for two days of talks which will pave the way for a summit in Brussels at the end of the week.

We are closer to our goal but are not there yet

Romano Prodi
European Commission President
Reversing the result of a 2001 referendum, Irish voters on Saturday approved the Nice Treaty, paving the way for EU accession for 10 countries from east and central Europe and the Mediterranean.

Romano Prodi, the head of the EU's executive arm, welcomed the move and said it was time to "get on with finalising preparations for enlargement".

Mr Prodi himself, however, faces tough questioning on Monday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg over an interview he gave in which he described existing budget constraints for Euro-zone countries as "stupid".

'Welcome in'

The Irish Yes result was hailed around the capitals of the EU and the 10 front-runner candidate states.

Candidates shortlist
Czech Republic
"We're delighted with the result in Ireland," said the UK's Europe minister, Peter Hain, as he arrived for the Luxembourg talks.

"It shows that Ireland has given a green light for enlargement and we now have to stick to the table and reunify Europe in this very historic and exciting process."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said: "We want to welcome the people of the applicant countries into the European Union with open hearts as well as open minds."

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller toasts the result in Warsaw with Guinness
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller toasted the result with Guinness
In the Czech Republic, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda praised the EU for demonstrating that it was based on "democratic decision-making and that a decision made by a small country carries weight too".

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller toasted the result with Irish stout and sang "I love you Ireland".

Mr Ahern, who had campaigned vigorously for a Yes vote after the 2001 setback, achieved a vote of nearly 63% after turnout rose by almost a third.

The foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg have four main issues to discuss:

  • The row over its farm subsidies which for months has beeb dividing France and Germany;

  • Regional aid to future members;

  • The new members' contribution to the overall EU budget;

  • Compensation designed to prevent any new member paying more into the EU than it receives.

"The stakes are high and everyone will have to compromise to make it happen," one senior EU source told the French news agency AFP.

'Dangerous views'

Romano Prodi speaking at the Sorbonne on Sunday
Romano Prodi is known for his frank speaking

Mr Prodi's problems over the euro-zone budget constraints came after he publicly questioning the 1997 stability pact, which imposes tight budget discipline on the 12 euro-zone states.

"It isn't possible to live simply with rules given the complexity of the economy," Mr Prodi, whose job it is to enforce such rules, told French radio.

The head of Germany's Bundesbank, Ernst Welteke, has warned that Mr Prodi's view was "dangerous because it could undermine confidence in the euro".

The outspoken head of the Commission is due to appear before Euro MPs at 1700 (1500 GMT) on Monday.

Richard Conquest, emerging markets economist
"In terms of the structure of the markets... leading players are... Poland... Hungary and Slovenia"
The BBC's Donna Larsen
"For the institutions of the European Union...the relief is obvious"
Michael Murray, markets editor, Sunday Business
"We [Ireland] are less dependent than we were on cash from the EU"

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21 Oct 02 | Europe
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