Presidents from 16 Central and Eastern European countries have called on the EU to keep open its gates for further enlargement.
On the first day of their closed two-day meeting in Mamaia, Eastern Romania, the heads of state on Thursday stressed the importance of "growing solidarity" with Eastern countries that aspire to join the EU, according to AFP. Austrian President Thomas Klestil said that "all European countries should find a place at the heart of the union, as soon as they fulfill the adhesion criteria." The presidents of Romania and Bulgaria repeated their wish to conclude negotiations with the EU by the end of the year, so as to join the union in 2007. Some of the countries represented at the summit are already EU members (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia). Others (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine) are EU hopefuls. The four Western Balkan countries (Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania) are hoping to join the EU between 2010 and 2015. Moldova and Ukraine have expressed a desire to join the union but enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen has said that their accession is "not on the Commission's agenda." On Friday the presidents will discuss the stability of the Balkan region and how to get more investment in the region. The Mamaia summit is the 11th such gathering since Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic agreed in 1993 to launch a debate on closer ties between the European Union and former Eastern bloc countries.