Helsinki, 10 December 1999 (RFE/RL) - The European Union agreed
today to invite six new states -- five of them from former communist
Eastern Europe -- to start talks on joining the 15-nation bloc.
A spokesman for the Finnish presidency said membership negotiations
will begin early next year with Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia,
Lithuania and the Mediterranean island of Malta.
This will double to 12 the number of countries holding formal
membership negotiations. Talks began earlier this year with the Czech
Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus.
Also at its opening session today, the summit in principle recognized
Turkey as an official candidate for membership. Talks on the details of
Ankara's candidacy are continuing in Helsinki between EU and Turkish
The EU leaders ignored a last minute plea by Russia not to start
accession talks with Latvia, which Moscow accused of discriminating against
its Russian-speaking minority.
EU leaders also agreed at the first session of their Helsinki
meeting this morning to complete internal reforms of Union institutions.
The reforms are likely to include extending the areas that are subject to
majority voting -- rather than unanimous decisions -- changing the
weighting of countries' voting powers, and limiting the number of posts on
the EU's Executive Commission.