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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 21:06 GMT
EU clinches expansion deal
EU flag
EU flags will be flying in 10 new capitals
The European Union has reached a financial deal with 10 candidate members, paving the way for the largest expansion in its history.

Prospective new members
Czech Republic

The agreement at the summit in Copenhagen was reached after the EU pledged to make 1bn euros available to Poland - the largest of the candidate countries - almost immediately after it joins.

The other nine leading candidates in this first wave of expansion were offered up to 300m euros in extra aid, a deal readily accepted by the majority.

The 10 candidates - eight former Communist states from Central and Eastern Europe plus Cyprus and Malta - are now preparing for entry into the bloc in 2004.

"For the first time in history Europe will become one because unification is the free will of its people," said Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

"Accession of 10 new member states will bring an end to the divisions in Europe."

In other developments at the EU's Copenhagen summit:

  • Talks on brokering a deal on the reunification of Cyprus have collapsed
  • Turkey has been told it cannot begin negotiations on joining for two years
  • Nato announced a deal with the EU, paving the way for the creation of the first EU military force - an agreement that had been held up by Turkish opposition.

Poland had initially asked for an extra 2bn euros to be made available - arguing that without extra subsidy its farmers would face ruin inside the European single market.

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

The 1bn euro offer was the symbolic gesture the country sought, but it is not in fact new money, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu.

Instead, the funds promised to Poland for infrastructure projects will be paid much faster than originally planned, to balance Poland's budget after it begins to pay hefty EU membership dues.

This should help its strained budget and in particular its ailing farming industry without increasing the overall amount it will eventually get.

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

Turkish woes

Separate talks were held on the margins of the summit to broker a deal on the reunification of Cyprus.

The United Nations - which was sponsoring the negotiations - said on Friday that there had been no agreement on creating a federal, decentralised system, which would have allowed Cyprus to join the EU as a united nation.

The failure of the talks may result in EU membership only for the internationally recognised, Greek Cypriot-run part of the island.

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

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, has sought to play down his government's disappointment over the fact that it will not be allowed to begin talks on entering the EU until 2004.

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

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.

Turkey will be able to begin negotiations in two years' time, provided that it meets EU requirements on human rights.

And Nato has now announced that a deal with the EU has been reached, paving the way for a European rapid reaction force.

The accord had been held up for about two years by Turkish opposition - and the row with the EU over Turkey's accession talks.

Under the deal, EU can draw on Nato's assets and planning for the 60,000-strong force.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"An agreement which will change the face of Europe"
The BBC's Brian Hanrahan reports from Copenhagen
"Money is what always clinches things in the European Union"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"It is a moment we can be truly proud of and offers great hope for the future"

Key stories

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See also:

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