Posted by Jeff from d53-106-196.try.wideopenwest.com (188.8.131.52) on Friday, December 13, 2002 at 5:31PM :
EU Clinches Enlargement; Turkey Accepts Delay
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By Paul Taylor and Gareth Jones
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The European Union (news - web sites) sealed a historic deal to admit 10 mostly former communist East European states Friday and Turkey grudgingly agreed to wait two years before the EU decides whether it is fit to start entry talks.
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Reuters Video Turkey Blasts EU Delay
Video Landmark EU Summit Begins
The landmark agreement came at the end of a two-day summit when Poland, the biggest and most demanding candidate, accepted a financial package that will ease its budget squeeze without substantially raising the cost to the 15 current member states.
"Accession of 10 new member states will bring an end to the divisions in Europe. For the first time in history, Europe will become one because unification is the free will of its people," European Commission (news - web sites) President Romano Prodi said in a statement.
Turkey lifted its obstruction of a long-delayed agreement for the U.S.-led NATO (news - web sites) alliance to assist the EU's embryonic military crisis management force, clearing the way for Europe to run its first peacekeeping operations next year in the Balkans.
But an EU dream outcome was marred by a setback on Cyprus, one of the 10 candidates that will join the EU on May 1, 2004.
Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators, meeting on the sidelines of the Copenhagen summit, failed to reach a peace deal to end 27 years of division on the Mediterranean island.
The EU agreed to admit a divided Cyprus if necessary, but talks will continue to seek a political settlement next year.
Turkey acknowledged the failure of its fight for a 2003 date for accession talks from the EU, despite lobbying by President Bush (news - web sites) on behalf of a strategic Muslim NATO ally vital for any U.S. military action in Iraq.
Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan pledged to work hard to meet the wealthy bloc's strict standards on human rights and democracy to ensure talks start in 2004.
SWEETENER FOR TURKEY
EU leaders added a final sweetener for Turkey after it opened the way for the NATO-EU deal, pledging to open negotiations "without delay" if Ankara passed the 2004 review.
Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who fought a tough battle to the end for more generous terms, waxed lyrical when the deal was done.
"Poland has made a great historic step forward. We shake off the burden of Yalta," he said, referring to the 1945 division of Europe into Soviet and Western zones of influence after World War II. "Our tough negotiations until the end has worked."
The summit outcome means the EU land area rises by 23 percent and population by 20 percent to 450 million in 2004, but its gross domestic product will grow by only five percent.
EU diplomats said the final enlargement deal meant the EU would spend 40.8 billion euros in the 10 new members in 2004-6, less than the bloc originally budgeted to spend on expansion back in 1999.
The final concessions which clinched deals with Poland and the Czech Republic after hours of haggling involved allowing converting some long-term EU project aid into short-term budget support, without raising the total cost to member states.
The countries that will be invited to join in May 2004 are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta. A summit draft statement backed Bulgaria and Romania's aim of entry in 2007.
Turkey's tone toward the EU softened during the day after an unexpected outburst of anger by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul in reaction to the 15 leaders' decision during the night to keep Ankara waiting until December 2004 for possible entry talks.
GUL CHARGES DISCRIMINATION
Gul accused the Europeans of discrimination and charged French President Jacques Chirac with blackmail and turning other Europeans against Ankara.
Angered by reports that the French leader had criticized blunt Turkish negotiating tactics, Gul was quoted as saying: "The real blackmail is what Chirac has done. I am very disappointed Chirac has influenced and directed the meeting."
But after meeting Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he sounded a gentler note, saying Turkey would "prove if it joins the EU that a Muslim country can be democratic and comfortable with the modern world."
To sweeten the pill, the 15 member states and 10 leading candidates due to join on May 1, 2004, were set to initial a joint declaration endorsing Turkey's accession process.
Turkey is worried that Cyprus or another newcomer might block its path to a club it has tried to join since the 1960s.
Turkish EU membership arouses deep passions in Europe, with many voters concerned about letting a mainly Muslim state with a large and rapidly growing population and borders with Iran, Iraq and Syria, into the predominantly Christian EU club.
But the United States and Britain see it as vital to bring stability to the eastern Mediterranean and set an example of the rewards that successful Muslim democracies can reap.
Greek Cypriot Attorney General Alecos Markides said the United Nations (news - web sites) mediator Alvaro de Soto had advised him it would be impossible to reach a deal at Friday's summit to end the division of Cyprus. It followed a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, veteran leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet which only Turkey recognizes, told reporters in Ankara: "The European Union's interest is to delay Turkey and to take Cyprus, to possess Cyprus and to build something like a Christian fortress around Turkey."
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