The European Union has released the text of a final statement expected to be agreed by EU leaders later (Dec. 11) on the final day of their two-day summit in Helsinki. RFE/RL correspondent Anthony Georgieff files this report from the Finnish capital:
Helsinki, 13 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The final statement highlights the main decisions taken at the summit:
The European Council reaffirms the inclusive nature of the enlargement process, the final document says, and it stipulates that all candidate states, including Turkey, participate in the negotiations process on an equal footing.
That wording comes despite the fact that Turkey has not yet been invited to begin formal accession talks. Such talks have been taking place since last year with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus. On Friday (Dec. 10), EU leaders decided to also open accession talks with Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Malta. Negotiations with this new wave of applicants may begin as early as February 2000.
The European Council statement states that, contingent on the fulfillment of criteria set for membership, new members can be accepted as early as the end of 2002.
Without naming specific states, the European Commission statement expresses concern that despite the substantial progress towards meeting membership criteria, some states have fallen behind others. It emphasizes that each state will be considered individually on its own merits, local peculiarities, and developments.
The next progress reports on the 12 states holding formal accession talks will be presented at an EU summit in December 2000.
The European Council recalls the importance of safety at nuclear power plants in Central and Eastern Europe. It stipulates that the nuclear safety issue should be viewed as a precondition for membership. Again, no states are named specifically. But EU officials and the governments of individual EU states have expressed concern over safety at nuclear plants in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Regarding Cyprus, the European Council statement encourages a political settlement to end the division of the island, and says it would "greatly facilitate" the accession process. However, it underlines that Cyprus's application will be considered without a political settlement as a precondition for it.
The wording comes at the insistence of Greece, which supports the membership effort of the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia. Turkey, whose forces occupy the northern third of Cyprus, has warned against membership for the island unless the views of the Turkish-held north are addressed.
The Helsinki summit also adopted a program for enhanced European security and defense. The EU will go ahead with plans to create an autonomous capacity to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises, where NATO is not directly involved. This process aims at avoiding duplication and will go ahead without the necessity to create a common European army. The EU members states, by 2003, must be able to deploy within 60 days and sustain for a year military forces of up to 60,000.
The final document of the EU Helsinki summit draws on another important issue: stability for Southeastern Europe.
The document states that the EU intends to take a leading role in promoting stability and peace in the Balkans under the aegis of the Stability Pact. It says that the prospect of stabilization and association agreements should enable closer cooperation to be developed between all the states in the region.
The statement says the EU "wishes" to assist the democratization of Yugoslavia, and will intensify its dialogue with Serbian democratic forces as well as with the democratically elected government of Montenegro.
The statement says that the EU also intends to aid the rapid cleaning up of the Danube river.