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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 17:30 GMT
Brussels haggling reaches fever pitch
EU flags in Brussels
Ten countries have days left to make a deal
A final round of hard bargaining has been under way in Brussels, as the 10 countries set to join the EU seek to wrest the best possible deal from their new European partners.

But a Danish package offering the candidates more money than originally planned received a major setback on Tuesday, when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder rejected it.

Officials from the 10 candidate countries are thrashing out the details of the deal with Brussels officials, ahead of the target deadline of next week's EU summit in Copenhagen.

I think the packages constitute a balanced compromise and a fair offer to the candidate countries

Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Danish PM
Denmark, the current EU president, tabled what it called a final, improved offer on the financial terms for entry last week, and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen embarked on a whistlestop European tour on Monday to win support from existing members.

But in Berlin on Tuesday, he met fierce resistance in the shape of Mr Schroeder.

Germany is already the biggest net contributor to EU funds, and with economic problems at home, Mr Schroeder is reluctant to pay a cent more, says the BBC's Katya Adler in Berlin.

"I have to say the financial package the Danish presidency has presented to this effect is not yet up to the expectations that we do have," Mr Schroeder told a news conference.

He did not expect a deal in advance of Copenhagen, he added.

While Germany is on record as saying the the deal would cost too much, most of the 10 candidates think the deal does not offer them enough. Only one, Cyprus, says it is close to signing.

Poland, which has a large number of low-income farmers, is particularly vocal in its demands for a more generous settlement.

Haggling

Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller believes the EU has a further 1.2 billion euros to offer the 10 candidates.

Slovenia and Lithuania have also asked for more cash.

The single greatest threat is that the Polish Government is making a political miscalculation, putting its demands so high that it is unable to climb down

EU source
BBC Europe correspondent Chris Morris in Brussels says the candidates are reluctant to conclude a deal now while there is still a possibility that further haggling will produce a better one.

But the candidates are being told not to pursue their brinkmanship too far. Warnings have been issued that any country which fails to reach a deal by the time of the Copenhagen summit could have to wait several more years to join.

"The single greatest threat is that the Polish Government is making a political miscalculation, putting their demands so high that they are unable to climb down," said one EU source.

Mr Rasmussen (r) with Spanish PM Aznar
All smiles as Mr Rasmussen visits Spain
On his lightning tour of EU capitals, Mr Rasmussen has found some support for his deal.

"I think these are good proposals that should be accepted," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

Mr Rasmussen has called his package a "balanced compromise and a fair offer to the candidate countries".

Turkish hopes

As well as selling the financial deal, Mr Rasmussen is also trying to reach a consensus on what approach the summit should take to Turkey's membership hopes.

Turkey has not yet been given a date to start negotiations, and opinion within the EU is divided on how to proceed.

Some European politicians believe the time will never be right for Turkey, a Muslim country, to join the EU.

Others would like to wait and see how the new government, which has its roots in disbanded Islamist parties, performs.

I support setting a date so that the Turks will know that they have a roadmap, what lays ahead and not just general statements

Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
Portuguese PM
But others are keen to lure Turkey further down the road to reform by going ahead with a date for talks to begin.

Portugal put itself in the third camp on Monday, as Mr Rasmussen visited Lisbon on the first stop of his tour.

"I support setting a date so that the Turks will know that they have a roadmap, what lays ahead and not just general statements," said Portuguese PM Jose Manuel Durao Barroso.

"The EU should not lower its democratic criteria, but it is very important that out of the Copenhagen summit a positive signal emerges for those in Turkey who want a secular, democratic state with rule of law."


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02 Dec 02 | Europe
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