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Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 07:55 GMT
EU enters new era
EU flag
EU flags will be flying in 10 new capitals
European leaders have hailed as historic a milestone agreement which will bring 10 new countries - mainly from the formerly communist east - into the European Union.

Prospective new members
Czech Republic

Delegates from EU countries and the candidate states spent two fraught days in Copenhagen negotiating a financial package for the poorer newcomers, with divisions at one stage threatening to stall proceedings.

With a funding deal finally in the bag, the 15-nation EU invited eight countries from Central and Eastern Europe, plus Cyprus and Malta, to join the organisation in 2004, declaring an end to lingering Cold War divisions.

"Today we have closed one of the bloodiest and darkest chapters in European history. Today we have opened a new chapter," said Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

But while the deal paves the way for the largest expansion in the history of the EU, the candidate countries still face referendums at home on whether their people do in fact want to join up.

It is thought that this may prove a troublesome task in some states, especially Poland.

In other developments at the EU's Copenhagen summit:

  • Talks on brokering a deal on the reunification of Cyprus failed
  • Turkey was told it could not 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.

The funding agreement at the summit was reached after the EU pledged to make 1bn euros available to Poland - the largest of the candidate countries - and up to 300m euros in extra aid to the other nine, a deal readily accepted by the majority.

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

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.

"This is a happy ending - on May 1, 2004 we will be members of the European Union under good conditions," President Aleksander Kwasniewski in Warsaw.

Cyprus deadlock

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.

Despite failing to clinch an earlier start date for entry talks, Turkey has nonetheless lifted its opposition to a long-delayed arrangement for Nato to assist the EU's embryonic rapid reaction force.

The accord had been held up for about two years.

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

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"

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Europe's new frontiers





See also:

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