Extending accession to regional unions

From 1 March 1999, the European Commission will be stepping up the preparations for European Union (EU) membership of the central European candidate countries with which accession negotiations have not yet been opened. This new phase in these countries' preparations for membership will involve bilateral "screening" of the laws and other measures they are putting in place in readiness for EU accession. It will help the countries concerned - Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia - increase their understanding of the rules that underpin the EU and identify more clearly which issues they need to address as they adopt and implement the acquis. This will enable these countries to accelerate their preparations for membership.

The 10 countries with an accession partnership are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The process of accession to the EU also requires countries to apply and develop their capacity to enforce the current EU environmental policy. This policy is still very much based on standards and a "command and control" approach, and this focuses attention on investments and revenue-raising to meet these regulations. Some estimates suggest that up to 120 billion ecus are required for water, air and waste for the 10 accession countries. This does not take into account the alignment of labour and occupational health and safety legislation that is also required in the accession partnerships. In addition, EU accession implies reforming the current environmental charges/funding mechanisms of the accession countries. The fund resources are understood by EU legislation to be state aid and are strictly regulated within the EU. The same problem arises with tax exemptions.

The European Commission has set aside 10 million Euros from the 7th European Development Fund to support the integration of the ACP countries into the multilateral trading system. A large number of ACP countries are already members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and many others are applying to become members. If they are to benefit from the trade opportunities granted by the WTO agreements and to integrate themselves better into the world economy, they need to know and understand their rights and obligations and to implement them. They need to prepare themselves for the next round of multilateral trade negotiations, to be opened in the year 2000. They also need the means, both technical and human, to participate actively in the negotiations so their interests and concerns can be taken into account. This entails technical assistance for capacity building in both their territories and in Geneva, the seat of the WTO.

Following the dramatic changes in Europe, particularly in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis, the European Commission proposed on 13 October 1999 that accession negotiations should be opened with all remaining candidate countries that respect democracy, the rule of law, human rights and minorities i.e. with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia. However, these negotiations should follow a "differentiated" approach taking full account of each candidate's progress in meeting the "Copenhagen criteria" set by the EU. These are the main elements of an ambitious strategy that the European Commission, at the initiative of Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enlargement, recommended to the European Council which will meet in Helsinki next December. Turkey should now be considered as a candidate country although there is no question of opening negotiations at this stage. In order to allow Turkey to benefit from candidate status, the Commission also proposed concrete actions as a means to stimulate in-depth reforms in this country and to promote respect for the Copenhagen political criteria. Moreover, the Commission called for a wider vision on the relations with countries of the former Yugoslavia and Albania on one hand, Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus and Maghreb countries on the other hand. Finally, the Commission adopted the regular reports assessing the progress of each of the candidate countries as regards the Copenhagen criteria and proposed new Accession Partnerships for each candidate country, including Malta and Cyprus.

Counter Claim:
More than a million small Polish farms (less than 7 hectares) are threatened by the coming entry of Poland to the European Union, which favors large conventional farms and methods which are harmful to health and the environment, the traditional landscape and biodiversity, and which would uproot small farmers and create further unemployment, migration to unhealthy, overcrowded cities, and destruction of the rural culture and way of life.
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies