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Monday, March 30, 1998 Published at 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK



Special Report

EU enlargement talks start
image: [ Applicant countries must conform to strict criteria before being allowed in ]
Applicant countries must conform to strict criteria before being allowed in

Foreign ministers from the European Union and 11 prospective members have been celebrating the start of the biggest-ever enlargement of the Union at a a ceremony in Brussels.

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, who opened the proceedings, said the enlargement would overcome the cruel and unnatural division of the continent.


David Eades reports from the divided island of Cyprus for BBC Radio 4's Today programme (3'46')
Ten former Communist countries and Cyprus are all hoping to join the EU. Detailed negotiations start straight away with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, and Cyprus - but it is expected to take at least four years for any of them to become members.

The applications of the other countries - Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia - are likely take even longer to complete. These countries have not been invited to join in the first wave and so, after the first day of speeches and a "family photo", their representatives will return home.

The remaining six countries will begin individual negotiations on Tuesday.

All ten former Communist countries have to make far-reaching changes to their economies and legal systems to prepare for membership.

The European Union will examine how well they have adapted their economies to market conditions and changed their laws to Western standards.

A BBC correspondent in Brussels reports that the EU has so far failed to make the institutional changes needed to accommodate newcomers. Current talks on reforming agricultural and regional aid suggest several member states are not ready to swallow the changes and cutbacks need to allow for a new influx of countries.

Thorny issue of Cyprus

The divided island of Cyprus remains a special case. The EU decision to negotiate with the Greek Cypriot government has angered the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash. He rejected EU offers to join the Cypriot team unless his Republic of Northern Cyprus was treated as an equal.


[ image: Rauf Denktash: fury over 'unfair' treatment]
Rauf Denktash: fury over 'unfair' treatment
"We are as good a government as the Greek Cypriot side," he said over the weekend.

He said the EU had ruined any chances of peaceful settlement "by treating one of the equals as the governor of the other".

The Turkish Cypriot government says the EU must accept the reality that there are two separate states on Cyprus, even though the Turkish-controlled north is not internationally recognised.

It is not clear whether the EU will allow Cyprus to join before a solution is found.

Both the EU and the Greek Cypriot government prefer not to answer the question now, feeling that if the Turkish Cypriots know the Greek side cannot get in without them, they will have little incentive to compromise.

"Let's leave the constructive ambiguity to work to solve the Cyprus question," said the Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister, Ioannis Kasoulides.

The island has been officially partitioned since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 after an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Turkey itself has been denied membership to the EU for 30 years - and seen its neighbour and traditional enemy, Greece, successfully join the Union.

The EU has rejected Turkey because of its underdeveloped economy and poor human rights record.
 





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A wider union

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The enlargement timetable

 
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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

 - 

Asian economic crises

 - 

London Referendum

 - 

Clinton Scandal

 - 

Water Week

 - 

Romanov

 - 

Pope in Cuba

 - 

South Korea

 - 

Chinese New Year

 - 

Harley Davidson

 - 

Woodward

 - 

Car Crash

 - 

Northern Ireland

 - 

Elgar

 - 

Super Bowl XXXII

 - 

Kosovo

 - 

Gulf War Syndrome

 - 

Hooligans

 - 

Bloody Sunday

 - 

Food Agency

 - 

Bon Appetit

 - 

Eurasia 98

 - 

US abortion rights

 - 

liberal democrats

 - 

Valentine

 - 

Welfare Reform

 - 

Australian Republic

 - 

PNG

 - 

1970s

 - 

India Elections

 - 

Viagra