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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Enlargement deal eludes EU ministers
Denmark's Per Stig Moeller (l) with France's Dominique de Villepin
Despite the smiles, no deal has been done
European Union foreign ministers have failed to reach agreement on how to finance enlargement - piling on the pressure for a deal at this week's European summit in Brussels.

The foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, were seeking a compromise over the cost of extending membership to 10 mostly-east European countries in 2004.

The ministers did not even discuss the biggest stumbling block, agricultural subsidies, after all sides indicated that their positions had not changed.

France has rejected a German proposal for significant cuts in farm aid before enlargement takes place, and correspondents say it is almost inevitable that the two countries will clash over the subject in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.


We have to finish on Friday in Brussels. If we postpone to Copenhagen, it will be too late and the enlargement will not take place

Per Stig Moeller
Danish FM

The Danish presidency of the EU, which hopes to wrap up negotiations with candidate countries by early December, says member states must now summon the political will to reach agreement at the Brussels summit.

A source close to the Danish EU presidency said the Brussels summit would be extended for as long as it takes to reach agreement.

"We have to finish on Friday in Brussels. If we postpone to Copenhagen, it will be too late and the enlargement will not take place," said Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, adding that time had to be left to negotiate with the candidate states over the deal on offer.

Tight timetable

"If we can't do it now, we will never do it," he warned.

"We know it will be difficult, but we all know what is at stake - enlargement. Postponement will solve nothing. So it will be done."

Candidates shortlist
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Malta
Poland
Slovakia
Slovenia

Correspondents say the timetable for enlargement will otherwise become extremely tight.

The ministers also failed to reach agreement on the amount of regional aid that will paid to the new members after enlargement.

The European Commission has suggested 35.5 billion euros for all 10 countries between 2004 and 2006.

Germany thinks 21.4 billion euros should be enough.

Rebate row

French President Jacques Chirac has meanwhile said a long-standing rebate on Britain's contribution to the EU budget - negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 - should be renegotiated as part of any deal.

The rebate was worth 2.8bn (4.4bn euros) last year, but Mr Chirac said it "today has less justification than yesterday".

The UK warned that reopening the rebate argument could hinder enlargement.

All 15 ministers earlier agreed in Luxembourg to back plans to take in 10 new member states, removing fears that the Netherlands might try to block the accession of Poland and some other countries.

The other major obstacle to enlargement - the Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty - was removed on Saturday, when voters accepted the treaty, reversing their earlier rejection of it.


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