EU Summit Opens with Major Questions Still Unanswered | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.12.2002
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EU Summit Opens with Major Questions Still Unanswered

The Copenhagen summit has the potential of being a historic step in the EU's history - that is, if participants manage to successfully maneuver around possible obstacles.


The world's press is set for what will be two intense days of talks

As the European Union's historic summit in Copenhagen gets underway, government leaders are under strong pressure to come up with last-minute offers for Turkey and Poland.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, urged the 10 entry candidates not to hold the bloc ransom with unreasonable financial demands. The 10 nations set to join the EU in 2004 are: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta.

Polish ringleader

Poland has acted as "ringleader" for the candidates demanding that the EU offer new members the full €42.5 billion ($43 billion) originally budgeted for enlargement in 1999. Denmark recently made an offer that was €2 billion off the original target, but leading EU countries such as Germany, the bloc's single largest net contributor, say they cannot afford more due to a worsening economic situation.

The EU Commissioner for enlargement, Günter Verheugen, a German social democrat, appealed to EU leaders to show more generosity. "The candidates are only demanding that the promise of 1999 is kept," Verheugen said.

No Turkish delight

There is also trouble brewing over the status of Turkey. Ankara is demanding a firm commitment and a date from the summit for talks on the country's accession. The United States, which sees Turkey as a key ally in a potential war on Iraq, is lobbying EU leaders to embrace Ankara's wishes.

President George W. Bush has repeatedly stated his support for Turkey's aspirations to begin negotiations. "The president expressed his hope that the EU would seize a historic moment and respond to Turkey positively and with vision," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Most EU states have signaled support for a Franco-German initiative to begin talks with Turkey in 2005, if it passes a review of its human rights record in 2004. Rasmussen said that he had nothing against advice from the U.S but that he would not be pressured.

Tayyip Erdogan, leader of Turkey's new ruling AKP party, said he would remain stubborn. "We will fight until the last second in Copenhagen to get before the end of 2003 a firm date for when talks can start. It is not Turkey that is now being tested, it is the EU. It must show its colors," he said.

Rasmussen has indicated that he has made provisions for the summit to run into the weekend if necessary to accommodate the required issues.

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