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Wednesday, March 11, 1998 Published at 12:21 GMT



Special Report

The European Conference
image: [ Buckingham Palace - the summit's focus of attention ]
Buckingham Palace - the summit's focus of attention

A special summit in London, the European Conference, marks the start of the largest-ever expansion of the European Union into Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. The one-day gathering is hosted by the prime minister, Tony Blair, and the highlight will be a lunch at Buckingham Palace with the Queen. The BBC Europe correspondent, David Shukman, reports.

The summit risks being overshadowed by a string of controversies - above all, over the guest list. Turkey, which has long wanted to join the EU, has snubbed an invitation to attend. The Turkish government is protesting that, along with the countries of eastern Europe, it deserves to be a candidate for membership.

The EU says Turkey would have been welcome at this conference but, with its poor human rights record, it cannot be allowed to join the Union.

Turkey is also embroiled in a row with Greece over whether the divided island of Cyprus should become an EU member. Cyprus has been promised "fast track" membership even though it remains a military flashpoint, with Turkish soldiers occupying the northern part of the island.

Turkey says Cyprus should be banned from negotiating with the EU - Greece warns that it will veto the entry of all countries unless Cyprus does get in.

The recent violence in the Serbian province of Kosovo threatens to upset the tone of the summit as well. The foreign ministers of the 26 countries attending the talks will discuss the crisis in a special session over lunch. The conflict - and the EU's response - are an uncomfortable reminder of Europe's recent failure to prevent the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

So is the summit - estimate to cost over 1m ($1.63m) - worth staging at all? Most diplomats contacted by us in the last 24 hours say the event will certainly be more symbolic than anything else.

One said "It's simply a TV event". But another said he believed it still had value - because it would show the world how the EU with its current 15 members, already large and unwieldy, would be even harder to manage in the future with a membership total of well over 20.








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In this section

A wider union

What can go wrong on the road to enlargement?

The enlargement timetable

Brussels prepares for tough discussions

Europe as 'fig-leaf'

Local worries overshadow Czech ambitions

Polish enthusiasm for Europe is waning

Cyprus: country report

Slovenia: country report

Estonia: country report

Czech Republic: country report

Hungary: country report





Special Report Contents
- Unabomber
- Louise Woodward case
- Education League Tables
- Whitbread yacht race
- ISS
- House of Lords
- Mars Surveyor probe
- Single currency
- Sport
- El Nino
- Space




1998 Contents

-

Balloon race

-

Sri Lanka

-

Drugs in sport

-

Millennium Dome

-

WEF Davos

-

Health

-

Diana

-

04/98

-

Karla Faye Tucker

-

EU Enlargement

-

Five Nations

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Asian economic crises

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London Referendum

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Clinton Scandal

-

Water Week

-

Romanov

-

Pope in Cuba

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South Korea

-

Chinese New Year

-

Harley Davidson

-

Woodward

-

Car Crash

-

Northern Ireland

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Elgar

-

Super Bowl XXXII

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Kosovo

-

Gulf War Syndrome

-

Hooligans

-

Bloody Sunday

-

Food Agency

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Bon Appetit

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Eurasia 98

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US abortion rights

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liberal democrats

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Valentine

-

Welfare Reform

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Australian Republic

-

PNG

-

1970s

-

India Elections

-

Viagra