|Author (Person)||Taylor, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.12, 22.3.01, p4|
THE EU will wrap up negotiations with leading candidate countries on some of the most sensitive areas of Union legislation at a high-level session next week, marking an important breakthrough in the enlargement process.
Diplomats say talks on difficult subjects could be concluded with Slovenia on environmental standards and energy rules, and with the five other front-running applicants on liberalisation of goods, services and capital markets.
Applicant country officials welcome the progress, saying it raises hopes that negotiations can be closed on two-thirds of all chapters by the end of the Swedish presidency.
"This is a very good result," said Bostjan Sporar, first secretary at the Slovenian mission to the EU, adding that Union leaders could give a strong signal about a possible date for enlargement at their summit in June. "If we reach a critical mass of chapters being closed I think that something should be said about that at Göteborg."
EU diplomats say the Union should be able to close talks in two or three areas with all six leading applicants at the first formal negotiating session under the Swedish presidency next week (29-30 March). They see the prospect of wrapping up discussions with Slovenia on environmental standards as a key achievement.
"We can use the Slovenians as a model for the other applicant countries to show them that with the right preparation they can close environment," one said.
Meeting the EU's environmental standards rules is seen as one of the toughest challenges for candidate countries, which are faced with massive bills to clean up Soviet-era polluting industries and improve their water and air quality standards.
President Milan Kucan's team in Lubljana is also expected to close discussions on energy after the Union granted it a few more years to meet EU requirements on oil reserves.
Diplomats expect that the Czech Republic and Hungary could wind up talks on the free movement of services.
Cyprus is expected to close negotiations on free movement of capital after the Union accepted Nicosia's demand to keep restrictions on foreign nationals buying second homes for five years after it joins the Union. Diplomats say this deal could act as a model for negotiations with other applicants who are fiercely resisting demands from to open up their land markets to Union citizens after accession.
Hungary and Poland are hoping to close discussions on the free movement of goods next week.
Over the two-day meeting, the Union will also launch talks on eight to ten chapters with the Helsinki group of candidate countries, which started negotiations in spring 2000. The subjects expected to be tackled include free movement of goods and capital, company law, energy, social affairs, telecoms and regional policy.
The EU is due to wrap up negotiations with leading candidate countries on some of the most sensitive areas of Union legislation at a high-level session on 29-30.3.01, marking an important breakthrough in the enlargement process.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|