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EU summit opens with warning

PoliticsThursday, 12 December, 2002, 20:07 GMT
Rasmussen told applicants not to push their luck
A landmark European Union summit has begun with host country Denmark urging 10 potential new members to accept the EU\'s terms for entry or risk delaying enlargement for many years.

Some members states feel that we have been too generous. I have no more money
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Danish PM
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said deals on EU aid to the new entrants could be reached - but added that success would depend on their willingness to compromise.

Ten countries - mostly from Central and Eastern Europe - are expected to be given invitations to join the union in 2004.

\"Enlargement can still go off track. It can be postponed for several years. Let\'s not gamble with this fantastic common prize,\" Mr Rasmussen warned.

Also topping the agenda in Copenhagen are attempts to resolve thorny arguments over Turkey\'s membership ambitions and the Cyprus dispute.

Reluctant paymaster
The EU has offered a final deal amounting to a total of 40 billion euros ($40bn) to the ten.
Likely new members
Czech Republic

But the offer falls short of the demands of farmers in central Europe, who will receive just 25% of the aid their Western counterparts get - rising to 100% only after a decade.

As a result Poland - the biggest applicant country - is holding out for improved terms.

Popular anger at the EU deal was also on show in the Czech Republic on Thursday, as farmers blocked border posts in protest at the funding they are due to receive.

The summit is due to run until Friday - but the politicians are preparing to stay until Sunday, in expectation that the wrangling may go on longer.

The BBC\'s Oana Lungescu in Copenhagen says Germany, the largest contributor to EU coffers, is facing a serious economic downturn and remains reluctant to show too much generosity.

\"Some members states feel that we have been too generous,\" Mr Rasmussen said.

\"They have accepted the packages but send us a very clear message; that we have come to the limit. So, at this moment, I have no more money.\"

Cyprus negotiations

UN envoy Alvaro de Soto hailed a potential coup for the EU on Thursday, saying that it was still possible to reach agreement on the decades-long Cyprus dispute.

Possible timetable
December 2002: 10 countries invited to join
April 2003: Accession treaty to be signed in Athens
May 2004: New members join
July 2005: Turkey starts membership talks
2007: Bulgaria and Romania join EU
Click here for a timeline of the EU
The EU would like to be able to invite a united Cyprus to join the union in 2004.

\"I hope they will agree. I hope to persuade them,\" said Mr de Soto after talks with Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides.

\"I hope to shuttle until the last moment, whenever that is,\" he said.

But Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said it was unlikely a deal on Cyprus would be struck at the summit as the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, was ill and absent.

Even without a deal, the EU is expected to invite the Greek part of the island to join in 2004, leaving the membership of the Turkish-ruled, northern part for another day.

Turkey\'s hopes

Turkey hopes finally to get a date to start negotiations on joining the EU.

The Turkey issue will be one of the most contentious

It has been kept waiting for decades because of its poor human rights record, but the newly-elected government believes a recent rush of new legislation means it deserves to begin talks soon.

France and Germany have both backed 2005 as a starting date, provided Turkey meets its obligations on human rights.

But former French President Valery Giscard d\'Estaing, who is chairing a forum on Europe\'s future, has made clear his view that Turkey - as an eastern, mainly Muslim country - has no place in the EU.
Two other EU hopefuls, Romania and Bulgaria, are expected to be given 2007 as their goal for membership.


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