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BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels
"EU could be ready for expansion from 2003"
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The BBC's Colin Blane reports
"The EU is placing far greater emphasis on the need for common European values"
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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 12:51 GMT
EU considers future expansion

parliament Formal talks will go on for some time

The European Union has opened talks with six states which want EU membership.

It takes to 12 the number of eastern European and Mediterranean countries negotiating entry.

Enlargement candidates
Already in negotiation: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus
Joining negotiations: Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta
Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta will have to introduce tough economic reforms and adopt thousands of pages of EU laws and regulations before entry.

They join Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus, which started entry talks almost two years ago.

Turkey is also interested in becoming a member but has not yet been admitted to formal talks.

The potential new members proclaimed the talks an historic turning point.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: "Austria is in favour of the enlargement"
"After being for almost half a century on the bad side of history, these talks mean Romania is now on the right side," said Romanian Foreign Minister, Petre Roman.

Negotiations have come at awkward time for the EU, which is struggling with an internal crisis.

EU member Austria has just formed a new coalition government, which includes the far-right Freedom Party of Joerg Haider.

Austria, which shares a border with four of the eastern European countries in talks, says it will not block the expansion but wants limits on the number of eastern European workers allowed into the EU.

"Austria is in favour of the enlargement," Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters as she arrived for the meeting.


All comments to the contrary were wrong, she said, adding: "I am the guarantee of that."

She suggested quotas on the expected influx of workers from new EU countries, as well as nuclear safeguards but said Austria "certainly won't slow down the enlargement".

The EU has not set a date for its next expansion, but has said it will be ready to take in additional members from 1 January, 2003.

No country will be admitted until it has met the strict entrance requirements.

Applicant countries have set themselves different target dates for joining, with the most ambitious, including Poland and Hungary, setting their sights on 2003.

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See also:
15 Feb 00 |  Europe
EU enlargement: Second wave
15 Feb 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Strong views on far right
14 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Cook warns Haider on human rights
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Diplomatic snub for Austria
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Yugoslavia flight ban lifted
13 Feb 00 |  UK
Haider 'to sue' in Churchill row
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Charles' Austria boycott attacked
08 Feb 00 |  Europe
EU trims meeting amid Austria fears
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider: View from the streets
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider

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