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Europe

Setbacks and Triumphs at EU Summit

The EU enlargement summit in Copenhagen achieved a breakthrough with Poland on tricky financial negotiations, but failed to reach a solution on the precarious issue of the divided island of Cyprus.

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Victorious - Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, left, and German Chancellor Schröder clinch a deal with Poland

Hopes that one of the most troubling issues dodging the EU enlargement project would be resolved at the crucial Copenhagen summit have been dashed.

Turkish Cypriots diplomats said on Friday that they were prepared to sign a "letter of intent" with Greek Cypriots to discuss a U.N. plan to reunite their divided Mediterranean island.

The U.N. plan forsees a state based on two largely autonomous Greek and Turkish zones and calls for an agreement by late February followed by referendums on both sides.

The "letter of intent" however is a diluted version of what EU leaders were hoping would be the inking of a framework agreement at the Copenhagen summit by both sides.

A "Christian fortress" around Europe?

Earlier Turkish leaders reacted angrily to the EU’s proposal of a December 2004 review of Turkey’s implementation of reforms and if successful, a date for accession talks in 2005. They are also smarting that that the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government on Cyprus is set to join the EU in 2004.

Earlier on Friday the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash accused the European Union of seeking to build a "Christian fortress" around Turkey and effectively ruled out a deal to reunite Cyprus at the summit.

"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," he told a news conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara.

Will any deal on Cyprus be reached at all?

However it remains unclear whether the summit will see any kind of agreement at all between the Greeks and Cypriots.

Greek Cypriot Attorney General Alecos Markides told Cyprus Television from Copenhagen that there was no need for any letter of intent.

"If they are committing themselves and they have told de Soto (U.N. envoy) they are to cooperate , we don’t need letters of intent or anything like that."

Even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan acknowledged on Friday that a deal to reunite Cyprus would not be reached at the EU summit in Copenhagen.

"We were very close, and I was very hopeful that we could get an agreement, and I recall telling (Turkish leader Tayyip) Erdogan that like an old soccer player like himself, the games is not over until the final whistle, and it looks as if we are not going to get there," Anan said.

Cyprus has been a divided island since a Turkish invasion in 1974 prompted by a brief Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia.

The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which accounts for about 18 percent of the island’s 750,000-strong population is only recognized by Turkey.

The EU has always maintained that in the absence of a settlement to unite the island, it would take in only the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot part of the island, with which it has been negotiating.

Historic deal clinched with Poland

Meanwhile the EU had better luck with another obstacle plaguing enlargement talks in recent months.

A Danish presidency official announced on Friday that all 10 candidates had accepted financial packages at the end of the two-day summit in Copenhagen.

"We have a deal," the official told Reuters after Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson and Polish Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko confirmed that Poland, the biggest and most difficult candidate, had accepted a financial settlement.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had earlier said that a solution had been found to give Poland a special cashflow facility for its years of EU membership without raising the overall cost of enlargement.

The EU had proposed reshuffling funds from various sources to give Poland about a billion extra euros in 2005 and 6. That money would then have been deducted from EU aid to Warsaw in following years.

The Polish acceptance of the renewed offer came after agonizingly long-drawn out negotiations which dragged the summit into overtime.

However the deal with Poland brings to a close one of the trickiest negotiation chapters in the enlargement project, which often threatened to jeopardize it.

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