Swedish warning over ‘super package’ threat to enlargement deals

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Series Details Vol 7, No.17, 26.4.01, p8
Publication Date 26/04/2001
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Date: 26/04/01

By Simon Taylor in Warsaw

SWEDEN'S top EU official is warning member states that delaying agreement on tough enlargement issues until the end of the negotiations will be "extremely dangerous".

Lars Danielsson, state secretary for European affairs in the Swedish prime minister's office, was responding to predictions that Union governments might not reach a deal on free movement of workers until next year after some member states linked agreement on the issue with their priority areas.

Spain has insisted that it should be compensated for the regional aid money it will lose to poorer new members when enlargement takes place. French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine has expressed similar concerns about the effects of enlargement on farm policy.

Danielsson issued his stark warning on the risks of delay after speaking at 'The Future of Europe - 2004 and Beyond' conference, organised by the Swedish presidency and Polish government in Warsaw this week.

He told European Voice: "While it is logical given the complexity and difficulties that there is a discussion on a possible link, to create a super package for the end would be extremely dangerous. We should not keep everything until the end."

He pointed out that the European Commission had deliberately drawn up the enlargement work programme to ensure that as many of the difficult chapters were closed as soon as possible. Under the process, a deal on free movement of workers should be struck by the end of June.

But the EU is not expected to agree its negotiating position on the policy areas with the biggest cost implications - agriculture, regional aid and budget contributions - until next year. Danielsson played down suggestions that plans for a review of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2002 would delay the start of talks so that the farming chapter could not be closed until after then.

"I don't see this being a delaying factor for enlargement," he said. "The mid-term review is not a question of radical change. The change to less intensive, more ecological agriculture will come but it will take some time. It's not something we should jump into."

But the head of Poland's EU integration committee, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, said that a more thorough review of Union farm policy which favoured smaller-scale agriculture could make it easier to Poland to join the EU. "The Union may have to rethink in order not to commit the mistakes of over-industrialising agriculture," he said. "It will show to the Union side that the Polish model is not so obsolete and is consumer-friendly."

But Saryusz-Wolski admitted that the prospect of Poland trying to adapt its farming to an EU policy in flux presented challenges. "It injects a strong element of uncertainty into what we are doing", he said.

Danielsson said the Swedish presidency aimed to present an assessment of each applicant's "progress and lack of progress" in the enlargement negotiations at the Göteborg summit in June, setting out when it might be possible to close the negotiations.

"We are supposed to give the guidelines for the final stage of the discussions in Göteborg," he said.

Saryusz-Wolski said he hoped the summit would give candidate countries a clearer idea of when they might join the Union. "It is possible to give more precision to the time frame. In Nice we have a window of 2003-04 but we would prefer a date," he said. Simon Taylor was a moderator at the conference.

Sweden's top EU official has warned Member States that delaying agreement on tough enlargement issues until the end of the negotiations will be 'extremely dangerous'. Report from a conference, 'The Future of Europe - 2004 and Beyond', Warsaw, April 2001.

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