Warnings against enlargement delay
During the plenary session on Wednesday, Commissioner for enlargement, Günter Verheugen, and Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ramon de Miguel, warned of a delay in enlargement if the 15 EU member states fail to reach an agreement on direct payments before the end of this year. "Countries blocking the enlargement should be held responsible", de Miguel stressed. The Danish Presidency has a tight deadline, and wants an agreement on direct payments by the Brussels Council on the 24-25 October, otherwise it envisages problems. This, however, would leave only 6 weeks for the candidate countries to negotiate the financial package.
Verheugen: benefits of enlargement do not come for free
The 15 EU member states have managed to reach a common position on all the issues except that of direct payments, since four member states, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK, which are the net-payers, claim that direct payments are not part of the acquis and thus should not be granted to the new member states.
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Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen said that it is not surprising that the issue of direct payments has created difficulties, however he urged member states to show solidarity. "It is about the distribution of the burden. I think that the citizens of Europe should be told that they will not get the considerable political and economical benefits of enlargement for free. The costs of enlargement should be thoroughly discussed. But then also the costs of non-enlargement!", Verheugen said. "Delays can always happen. But I warn against a delay that would result from the fact that the Member States could not agree among themselves."
Spanish Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ramon de Miguel, said that the issue of direct payments, cannot be left pending until late. "It is a matter of principle." Günter Verheugen also reiterated the Commission's position that direct payments are part of the acquis. "An argument to the contrary cannot be taken seriously", he said.
Candidates will have only few weeks to negotiate financial package
During the debate, various MEPs called on the member states to find a speedy solution to this issue, in order to stick to the enlargement timetable. Socialist MEP Simon Francis Murphy said that the "passion has gone out from enlargement and has become a technical exercise." He said that the Council seems to be dragging its feet and urged member states not to link CAP reform with enlargement. Liberal MEP Graham Watson, however, said that an agreement in autumn is too late as it will jeopardise the entry of new member states. Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit urged reform of the EU before enlargement, as it would be impossible for the EU to operate in its present form.
In ight of the current situation, the Danish Presidency has planed a strict and tight timetable in order to be able to stick to the enlargement roadmap and end negotiations by the end of the year. It plans to have an agreement reached between the EU15 by the EU Brussels Council in October, which would leave only about 6 weeks for the candidate countries to negotiate the financial package until the Copenhagen Summit on the 12-13 December. However, since the timetable is a tight one, any delay in agreement is set to create a serious problem.