Laeken, Belgium; 15 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- European Union leaders today approved the "Laeken Declaration," considered a key step in the EU reform process ahead of enlargement of the bloc. The declaration is intended to make the bloc more democratic, open, and efficient.
But the 15 EU leaders -- meeting at summit talks near Brussels -- left open the question of who will head a new body that will organize debate on institutional reform. Front-runners for the post include Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato.
The reform of EU institutions is considered critical as the EU expands into Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, with 10 new members expected to join in 2004.
Also today, EU leaders are expected to declare an EU military rapid reaction force operational.