EU seals historic expansion deal
COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- The European Union has agreed the financial terms to bring in 10 countries -- setting the stage for its largest expansion ever.
The deal at the EU summit in Copenhagen clears the way for Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, and Cyprus to join the 15-member union in May 2004.
However, Turkey has been told it must wait until at least the end of 2004 -- a year longer it had hoped -- before talks can begin on its membership.
Speaking after Friday's deal, Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission, said: "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."
The breakthrough came after Poland, by far the biggest of the candidate states negotiating their entry, agreed a deal with the Danish EU presidency.
The EU will pay 42 billion euros (dollars) over the 2004 to 2006 period in farm and other subsidies for the new member states -- about 430 million euros (dollars) more than what was on offer at the outset of the Copenhagen talks.
"It was a good deal," said Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller. "In my opinion, we can sell this in a referendum."
Turkish anger at review date
Earlier on Friday, leaders formally set a review date of two years from now for Turkey's candidacy for EU membership. The move upset Turkish officials who wanted the date to come sooner.
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson told reporters at the summit that the EU decision was not negotiable.
"It has been concluded now that we in December 2004 will, on the basis of a European Commission report, make an assessment of whether Turkey is meeting with the Copenhagen criteria," he said referring to EU standards on democracy and human rights.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "It is the first time that a firm date has been given for Turkey, and it is important to emphasise that it is not a question of whether negotiations are open with Turkey, if they pass the criteria they will be open with Turkey.
"And I think that is a very important step forward."
Turkish officials were disappointed.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party, was quoted by the Anadolu news agency as saying: "We wanted to get a date for opening of accession talks with the European Union as of the end of 2003. However, the EU delayed this date a little.''
A Turkish official quoted Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul as telling Blair in a telephone call: "I cannot accept the paragraph on Turkey. There is great discrimination here.
"There is an act of prejudice against us, and there needs to be great efforts to correct this. Clear sentences and words should be put into the draft to remove uncertainty."
Apparently angered by reports of criticism by French President Jacques Chirac of Turkish negotiating tactics, Gul was quoted as saying: "The real blackmail is what Chirac has done. I am very disappointed that Chirac has influenced and directed the meeting."
Faruk Logoglu, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, said the decision "will be perceived as a letdown" by Turks and called the move a "delayed opportunity" and a "missed opportunity" on the part of the European Union.
"We were expecting something better from the European Union, but at least they have made a firm, committment to embrace Turkey as member, and that is a good outcome in that sense."
Under the timetable, the European Council will look through Turkey's human rights record and political structures in two years.
Turkey had hoped the European Union would set a date for formal entry talks into the EU.
The United States had asked the EU to set a quicker timetable for Turkey, a NATO member and an important strategic ally, especially regarding the conflict with Iraq.
If Turkey passes muster two years from now, talks about its entry into the European Union could go to the next level, including the setting of a date for formal talks about the Muslim nation's entry to the European Union, diplomats say.
No breakthrough on Cyprus
Talks on the other remaining issue, Cyprus, failed on Friday afternoon. (Full story)
Greek Cypriot Attorney General Alecos Markides said the United Nations had advised him it was impossible to negotiate a Cyprus peace deal during the summit.
EU leaders had been hoping that Greek and Turkish Cypriots at meetings on the fringes of the Copenhagen summit would agree on a U.N.-proposed plan to reunite the island.
But Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was not at the summit due to ill health and he accused the 15-nation EU of using threats to find a solution.
Cyprus will take its place in the EU represented by the Greek Cypriot side only.