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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 13:07 GMT
Final push for EU enlargement
Laeken demonstration
Ten countries are expected to join the union
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has embarked on a whirlwind tour of European Union countries to rally support for a financial deal on the enlargement of the union.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Rasmussen wants to avoid last-minute haggling in Copenhagen

In three days, Mr Rasmussen will be visiting all 14 other countries to lobby for a costly package put to 10 candidate states last week.

The EU is in the final stages of its preparations for a summit in Copenhagen on 12-13 December where eight former eastern European states and two Mediterranean countries are expected to be formally invited to join.

The Danish prime minister is hoping to reach agreement on all key issues before the Copenhagen summit, to avoid last-minute haggling.

Denmark's latest proposals are "a balanced compromise and a fair offer to the candidate countries," he said on the first stop of his tour in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.

However, he said the proposals presented last week had met with resistance: "Some candidate countries says the proposals are not enough, some member states criticize them for being too generous."

Negotiations deadline

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said last week that there would be no negotiations in Copenhagen.

"I have warned them... It is not possible... It is logistically not possible.

"They [the negotiations] have to be finished in Brussels," at an EU general affairs council on 9 December, he said.

Whistlestop tour
2 Dec: Portugal, Spain, Austria
3 Dec: Germany, Italy
4 Dec: Finland, Sweden
5 Dec: UK, Ireland, France
6 Dec: Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland
10 Dec: Greece

European Commission President Romano Prodi also urged EU candidates to show "political realism".

On Sunday, the prime ministers of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - which have been shortlisted for the first round of expansion - said they would continue to push for the best possible membership conditions until the last minute.

They said they would work together on negotiating better access to agricultural subsidies, and for other financial and production concessions, after meeting in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

The Polish Prime Minister, Leszek Miller, said that if the negotiations did not end satisfactorily by the EU's deadline this week, talks could continue at the Copenhagen summit later this month.


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