Brussels, 9 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The European Commission today recommended that 10 candidate countries be invited to join the European Union in 2004. The 10 countries are: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta.
European Parliament President Pat Cox commented on the commission's recommendation prior to debate in parliament, which began earlier this afternoon. "We are entering the final stage of a process which began with such inspiration almost 13 years ago with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Our countries, our member states, and not just the accession states, must individually and collectively summon up the necessary political will to overcome the last remaining obstacles," Cox said.
He added that, "It is the first time in our old continent in millennia that by the free wills of free and sovereign people that we will be coming together neither forced at the point of a sword, nor through the barrel of a gun, nor any other oppressive force but by the use of reason and conviction and shared values."
The EU's executive also said in its annual enlargement report that it supports the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania to join the EU in 2007, provided they keep up the pace of reforms. The commission did not recommend a date for Turkey to start accession negotiations because of concerns over its human rights record.
The report will be discussed by the 15 EU members at a summit later this month. New countries are expected to be formally invited to join in December.