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EU: Expansion Summit Opens Today

Copenhagen, 12 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union is due this evening to open a summit in Copenhagen, Denmark aimed at finalizing the bloc's historic expansion by 10 countries, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe. Denmark, which says the summit could run into the weekend, has said it hopes the meeting will finally settle the terms under which Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus, and Malta would join the EU in 2004 in the bloc's biggest expansion.

Last night, the Polish government announced the EU was prepared to increase its offer of direct subsidies to farmers in the candidate countries. There was no immediate comment from EU officials.

Earlier, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the candidate states it was time to compromise and back down on demands for more funds.

The summit is also expected to address Turkey's demand to start EU membership negotiations. France and Germany have suggested talks could start in 2005, but Turkey says they should start no later than the end of 2003.

U.S. President George W. Bush has urged the EU to respond to Turkey positively.

The United Nations said it hopes to hold negotiations on the sidelines of the summit aimed at winning agreement between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on a plan for the reunification of the island.