Accessions to take place pre-2005
At a conference at the Centre for European Policy Studies this week, Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen emphasised the inevitability of enlargement and made predictions as to the time frame of the process.
Verheugen said that specific target dates are still difficult to predict and that, contrary to previous expectations, they will most probably not be agreed upon at the Intergovernmental meeting in Nice this December. Rather, the progress of the candidate countries in meeting EU requirements will be gradually monitored through country reports (due to appear in the first week of November) and through the use of new "scoreboards."
Hence, at this stage, the only possible time period for enlargement is primarily influenced by attitudes within the Commission on Enlargement. In light of these circumstances, Verheugen said that most candidates should become members by the end of President Romano Prodi's mandate, in other words before 1 January 2005.
Verheugen also showed a positive attitude toward some of the most problematic issues regarding enlargement—migration, competition, crime and money. Thus, on the whole, he reiterated the Commission's continuing commitment to enlargement without giving any specific dates of accession.
Candidates urge quicker negotiations
Applicant countries expressed a certain degree of frustration with the speed of negotiations on EU accession. They called on the European Parliament to consider each member individually so that accession dates can be reached sooner.
The 12 applicants to the European Union (Poland, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania and Malta) held their first joint meeting on Thursday 14 September 2000, in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Chief negotiators and senior officials of the candidate countries produced a statement addressing the European Parliament on the process of pre-accession negotiations. The predominant view expressed was that the best prepared of the candidates could finalize talks with the EU by the end of 2001 and become members after 2002. All countries emphasised their willingness to be considered for accession based solely on merit.
At the same time, the European Union has been reluctant to come up with any specific dates for accession. On one hand, the meeting in Nice is expected to bring positive changes within the Union, which will in turn facilitate the enlargement process itself. On the other hand, the enlargement project is one of the most ambitious and least popular campaigns of the EU so far. In this respect, a wider public support is also necessary before any firm dates for accession are set.
Ukraine wants to become an EU candidate
Ukraine wants to become an EU candidate
Ukrainian and EU leaders met in Paris on Friday 15 September for a two day summit discussing Ukraine’s possible status as an applicant country.
The Ukrainian minister of economy, Vassily Rogovoy, reiterated the country’s willingness to make every effort to meet EU criteria for accession. The main emphasis was on nuclear power safety and trade with the Union.
There was an emphasised commitment on behalf of Ukraine to close down the power plant at Chernobyl. In this respect, continued financial support from the European Union was expected in order for the closure to proceed. At the same time, a trade law with the Union was also seen as a way towards achieving an applicant status and future membership.
Overall, Ukraine is already involved with the European Union on an economic level. The Union is one of the country’s main trading partners outside the former Soviet bloc, and, moreover, its largest international donor. Thus, a possible status of EU applicant will only foster Ukraine’s existing relations with the European Union and will make a future deepening of mutual cooperation even more likely.
EU concerned with health status
Although health status is not part of the accession criteria for candidate countries, it has become of considerable concern for the European Union. This concern has arisen as a result of the widening gap between the health status of the member states and of applicant countries.
Ever since the beginning of the transition process, the social and health standards in the post-Communist countries have been going down. The reasons for that are varied and complex and it is usually difficult to tell them apart. On the level of economic policy, shrinking government funds combined with severe fiscal crises have undermined any concerns with the health or other public sectors.
At the same time, social polarization has also contributed to the disintegration of the health system. Lastly, increased crime rates and higher dependency ratios with regards to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, for example, have considerably lowered the health status of the population at large.
In light of these developments, a new working party starting at the Centre for European Policy Studies on 13 September will analyse the effects of the process of transition on the health status in the candidate states. The report will be produced in cooperation with the Commission, the European Parliament, member states, insurance companies, representatives of the corporate world and administration from the applicant countries. Its results should facilitate dealing with health issues in the context of enlargement.
Ivana Gogova, 16 September 2000
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