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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 08:16 GMT
EU poised for historic deal
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (left) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Expansion is expected to be given the green light
Leaders from the European Union are on the brink of signing an historic agreement that will expand the bloc by 10 members in 2004.

A day of last minute horse-trading is expected as the 15 EU members and the 10 candidate states hammer the final details of the deal in Copenhagen.

Likely new members
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Malta
Poland
Slovakia
Slovenia
Late on Thursday, the EU's Danish presidency announced a funding package for the candidates, worth a total of 40.5bn euros ($40.5bn) over a period of three years.

But there was disappointment for Turkey after the leaders decided it would have to wait at least two more years before it is invited to hold membership talks.

The new funding deal offers the 10 candidates about 1.5bn euros more than a previous package approved in October.

It now awaits approval by the candidates countries themselves.

Open in new window : Looking to the EU
Views from candidate countries

Poland, the largest of the states seeking membership, has been holding out for an even more generous offer.

But earlier the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned them that there was no more money and if they refused the offer they could risk delaying membership until at least 2007.

Denmark will hold individual meetings on Friday with the candidates which have not yet accepted terms of accession.

Turkish civil servants press for the country's EU membership in Istanbul
Turkey had been hoping for immediate negotiations

But most of the candidate countries signalled their willingness to accept the EU's entry conditions ahead of the summit and three of them - Cyprus, Estonia and Slovakia - have already wrapped up formal talks.

Poland is also expected to follow suit in the end.

"I believe there are fairly good chances to conclude with fairly positive results even tomorrow, with a bit of flexibility, a bit of goodwill," the country's chief negotiator Jan Truszczynski said as he arrived in Copenhagen late on Thursday.

Mr Rasmussen was set to meet Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller at 0800 (0700 GMT).

Dashed hopes

Also topping the agenda of the two-day summit in Copenhagen is the thorny issue of Turkey's membership ambitions.

Possible timetable
December 2002: 10 countries invited to join
April 2003: Accession treaty to be signed in Athens
May 2004: New members join
Dec 2004: Turkey invited to start membership talks
2007: Bulgaria and Romania join EU

Turkey had been pressing for an immediate start to its negotiations on joining the EU.

The BBC's correspondent in Copenhagen, Chris Morris, said that Turkey would be very disappointed with the offer of talks only after 2004.

It has been kept waiting for decades because of its poor human rights record, but the newly-elected government believes a recent rush of new legislation means it deserves to begin talks soon.

France and Germany have both backed 2005 as a starting date, provided Turkey meets its obligations on human rights.

But former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who is chairing a forum on Europe's future, has made clear his view that Turkey - as an eastern, mainly Muslim country - has no place in the EU.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tim Franks
"As far as the Turks are concerned they'll be bitterly disappointed"
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"It is in all our interests to have Turkey in"
German MEP Elmar Brok
"It's not a discrimination of Turkey"

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See also:

13 Dec 02 | Europe
12 Dec 02 | Europe
11 Dec 02 | Europe
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