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2002-10-09 22:25:51


Brussels, 9 October 2002
Towards the Enlarged Union - Commission recommends conclusion of negotiations with ten candidate countries

The European Commission today recommended that the negotiations on accession to the European Union should be concluded by the end of this year with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. The Commission considers that these countries will be ready for membership from the beginning of 2004. The recommendations are based on a rigorous and fair assessment of the state of preparedness of each candidate country. Preparations of the ten countries for membership will continue and will be strictly monitored by the Commission. As for Bulgaria and Romania, the Commission will strongly support these two countries in achieving their objective to join in 2007. Regarding Turkey, the Commission recommends that the EU should enhance its support for Turkey 's pre-accession preparations and provide additional resources for this purpose. The findings and recommendations of the regular reports and the strategy paper adopted today by the Commission will be examined by the European Council meeting in Brussels on 24-25 October.

? The historic project of unifying our continent to ensure peace, stability and democracy in Europe is within our reach ? said Commission President Romano Prodi, adding : ? I am confident that the European Council will endorse our recommendations and thus pave the way for concluding the negotiations at the end of the year ? .

Commissioner for Enlargement G?nter Verheugen added : ?These recommendations are fair and objective. They result from the remarkable progress achieved by the candidate countries alone. The European Union can now focus its efforts on the limited number of points that remain in the negotiations ?.

This year's Regular Reports and Strategy Paper carry three important messages :

* The Union's pre-accession strategy has proved a success. The transformation process in the candidate countries has been considerably accelerated by the prospect of enlargement.

* The accession negotiations, which have been based on the principles of own merits, differentiation and catching up, can be concluded with most candidates by the end of 2002. Preparations for enlargement will continue.

* Enlargement is an inclusive process which is not yet completed with the first accessions. The European Union continues to give its full support to those candidates that will not be in a position to participate in the next wave of enlargement.

A rigorous and fair methodology

As in previous years, the Commission measured the progress of the candidate countries towards meeeting the accession criteria, which were set down for the first time in 1993 at the European Council of Copenhagen, according to its well established methodology defined and explained in 1997 in Agenda 2000.

Under these so-called ? Copenhagen criteria ?, membership requires that the candidate country ensures :

* ? stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the respect and protection of minorities ? : this is the political criterion.

* ? the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union ? : these are the economic criteria.

* ? ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union ?. This criterion refers to the implementation of the Union's legislation (the ? acquis communautaire ?) and ensuring its effective application through appropriate administrative and judicial structures.

The candidate countries are expected to fully meet these conditions upon accession.The Commission has therefore included a forward-looking element in this year's Regular Reports based on progress achieved by the candidate countries not only during the past twelve months, but over several years. It also takes into account their track record in implementing the commitments made in the negotiations and detailed implementation plans agreed between the Union and the candidate countries concerned.. This approach allows the Commission to conclude on the readiness of the candidate countries from the beginning of 2004.

Main conclusions of the reports

The Commission considers that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia fulfil the political criteria and will have fulfilled the economic and acquis criteria within the timeframe foreseen for accession by the European Council. These countries will be ready for membership from the beginning of 2004. The Commission recommends concluding the accession negotiations with these countries by the end of this year with the aim of signing the Accession Treaty in Spring 2003.

As regards the implementation of the acquis , the Reports show that, overall, candidate countries have generally reached a high degree of alignment in many areas, as a result of the considerable progress in transposing the acquis over the last years. Steady progress has also been made in building up the administrative and judicial structures required for implementing and enforcing the acquis.

In some sectors, alignment with the acquis needs to be finalised and the building up of the necessary administrative capacity needs to be completed in view of accession. This is the case for the internal market, competition, consumer policy, environment, transport, energy, social policy and employment, justice and home affairs and taxation areas.

For a limited number of sectors, this year's Reports identify, for individual countries, areas of the acquis where special efforts are needed, underlining, in some cases, the measures which need to be urgently taken. Special efforts from several candidates are required, in particular in the following sectors :

* customs : special efforts should focus on full interconnection of the national systems with Community customs information technology systems .

* agriculture : the setting up of the integrated administration and control scheme (IACS) which is indispensable for the management and control of direct payments.

* regional policy : candidates need to define clearly their final implementation structures and reinforce their administrative capacities.

* financial control : candidates need to focus their efforts on implementing adequate Public Internal Financial Control systems.

Ensuring the proper implementation of the acquis

As mentioned above, the Regular Reports point to a number of areas where further improvements need to be made, in particular to implement and enforce the acquis. These should be vigorously pursued. In order to analyse progress and to allow successful membership of the European Union, the Commission will regularly monitor this issue and report to the Council of Ministers. Six months before the envisaged date of accession the Commission will produce a comprehensive monitoring report for the Council and the European Parliament.

After enlargement, the Commission, as guardian of the Treaty, will ensure proper implementation of EU law in the new Member States with the same methods and rigour as in present Member States.

In order to ensure a smooth phasing in of an unprecedented number of new Member States in EU policies the Commission considers, that for a limited time, the Accession Treaty should envisage the introduction of a specific safeguard clause for the internal market (including food safety) and in the area of justice and home affairs, allowing to react more flexibly to possible problems associated with the initial period of membership. This will complement the Commission's usual instruments which ensure compliance with EU law. Such a safeguard clause should have a maximum duration of two years.

On the basis of the analysis made in the Regular Reports, the Commission also indicates more clearly how the ?380 million Institution Building Facility for New Member States proposed for the years 2004 2006 (in the financial framework for negotiations of 30 January 2002) should be used. This facility will help finance the continued strengthening of their adminsitrative capacity once the current candidates are member states. This funding will be mainly dedicated to supporting judicial reform, and in adminsitrative improvement related to border control, customs union, veterinary services, food safety, environment and nuclear safety. This will be achieved partly by the short-term placement of officials from the new member states in administrations of the present Member States.

A revised accession strategy for Bulgaria and Romania

The Commission will strongly support Bulgaria and Romania in achieving their objective to join the U in 2007. The Commission will propose, before the Copenhagen European Council, and on the basis of the analysis in the 2002 Regular Reports, detailed roadmaps for Bulgaria and Romania to complete their preparations.

In order to ensure Bulgaria and Romania are ready for membership in the European Union, an increased focus will be put on judicial and administrative reform. Furthermore, pre-accession assistance provided to Bulgaria and Romania should be increased gradually but considerably from the date of the first round of accessions, and linked to progress in implementing the roadmaps.

A new impetus to the enlargement process with Turkey

Turkey has made considerable progress towards meeting the Copenhagen political criteria. The death penalty has been lifted except in case of war and important steps have been taken to permit broadcasting and education in languages other than Turkish. The state of emergency has been lifted in two of the four provinces where it had applied

Nonetheless, Turkey does not fully meet the political criteria. The reforms contain a number of significant limitations, which are set out in the Regular Report, on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, many of the reforms require the adoption of regulations or other administrative measures and a number of important issues arising under the political criteria have yet to be adequately addressed. Turkey is encouraged to pursue the reform process to strengthen democracy and the protection of human rights, in law and in practice.

The Commission recommends that the European Union should enhance its support for Turkey's pre-accession preparations. In order to help accelerate the implementation of Turkey's pre-accession strategy, increased financial assistance should be provided from 2004 under heading 7 of the budget devoted to pre-accession support. This increase is intended to enable Turkey to strengthen its public administration, support the adoption of the acquis, and to facilitate Turkey's integration into the European economy.

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