Copenhagen, 13 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- European Union leaders have approved a final funding offer to the 10 candidate states that hope to join the EU in 2004. The financial package, proposed by current EU president Denmark, was backed by EU leaders meeting at their summit in Copenhagen last night. The deal, which still must be accepted by the candidate states, would be worth 40.5 billion euros ($41.2 billion) to the candidates over three years, from 2004 to 2006. The new member states in turn are expected to contribute around 15 billion euros to the EU budget.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the financial offer will be the basis of final membership negotiations expected to take place today in Copenhagen. Rasmussen had previously warned that candidate countries that fail to conclude talks in Copenhagen could have their admission to the EU postponed for years.
Poland is among the candidate states that have been pushing for more-generous terms from the EU in the final stage of negotiations.
The 10 candidate states -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, and Malta -- are expecting to receive official invitations to join the EU at the Copenhagen summit.
The EU suggested today it could accept Romania and Bulgaria as new members in 2007. The suggestion appears in a draft of conclusions for the summit in Copenhagen that is being circulated for endorsement before the meeting ends today. Entry of the two former communist countries in 2007 would expand the EU to 27 states.
Rasmussen said European Union leaders have agreed to decide whether Turkey is ready to start EU membership talks in December 2004. Rasmussen said that if Turkey meets the EU's political, economic, and human rights criteria, membership talks with Ankara could begin as soon as possible after the December 2004 review. Turkey has been pushing to start EU membership talks by 2003.
News agencies quoted an aide to the leader of Turkey's governing party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as saying the announced EU date is well-intentioned and not too distant. However, the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested that Turkey would continue to press for an earlier opening of membership negotiations.
Reports from the European Union summit say EU leaders and Turkey have agreed on a deal aimed at giving the EU access to NATO assets for use in the EU's own military operations. The deal was expected to be submitted today to NATO for approval.
The agreement is crucial to EU plans for a 60,000-troop rapid-reaction force and to the EU's plan to launch its first peacekeeping operation in Macedonia.
Reports say the deal was reached after Turkey, a NATO member, apparently dropped its objections to the EU's use of NATO facilities and assets.
Under the reported agreement, all NATO allies and partners would have access to NATO resources for crisis management and peacekeeping. This would exclude Cyprus, which is disputed by Turkey and Greece and which does not have a partnership agreement with NATO.