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EU: Officials Support Clearer Expansion Timetable

Gothenburg, Sweden; 15 June 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Sweden's Foreign Minister Anna Lindh says there is strong support among European Union leaders, who are meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, to give candidate countries a more precise timetable for enlargement. Lindh -- who is representing the EU presidency -- said after talks today that EU leaders agreed that after Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty last week, candidate countries need what she called a "strong signal" that the enlargement process is irreversible. The Nice Treaty paves the way for accepting new members into the EU.

"We have seen big support for the development [of enlargement], and also big support to be more precise on a timetable building on [the] Nice [summit] and the [European Commission] roadmap [for negotiations]. What it can look like is too early to say. Discussions will continue, but what I think is very important is the clear commitment to the enlargement process."

Lindh said discussions on the issue would be finalized Saturday (16 June), the last day of the summit.

However, today ministers from several EU member countries opposed giving candidates precise dates for the closure of accession talks or admission into the EU. Representatives from Germany, France, Austria, and Spain say enlargement talks have not progressed far enough to determine dates.

U.S. President George W. Bush also lent his support to enlargement today by endorsing Poland's entry into the European Union, saying it is "in all our interests."

Bush, speaking at a joint news conference in Warsaw with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, said Poland's entry will strengthen the U.S.'s ties with its partners.

Bush, who arrived in Poland today on the fourth leg of his five-nation European trip, held talks with Kwasniewski on EU enlargement as well as on other issues concerning developing peace and stability across Central and Eastern Europe.

On 14 June, EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten said that since the U.S. is not an EU member, Bush's comments on enlargement should not be seen as the views of an "insider."

Bush wraps up his European tour on 16 June in Slovenia, where he is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For more on the issue of an EU expansion timetable, please see EU: Leaders Debate Enlargement Timetable.