No going back on EUexpansion plans: Fischer

13th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 June 2005, LUXEMBOURG - German foreign minister Joschka Fischer on Monday warned the European Union against reneging on plans for further enlargement, saying such a decision would be against Europe's security interests.

13 June 2005

LUXEMBOURG - German foreign minister Joschka Fischer on Monday warned the European Union against reneging on plans for further enlargement, saying such a decision would be against Europe's security interests.

Fischer also said EU states must take a national decision on whether to continue with ratification of the bloc's first-ever constitution following its rejection by French and Dutch voters.

Speaking to reporters as EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg stepped up preparations for a summit of the bloc's leaders on 16-17 June, Fischer cautioned that there may be only an "interim deal" on a new EU budget at the top-level encounter.

The German foreign minister rejected suggestions that the lack of a specific reference to opening entry talks with Turkey on 3 October in the 16 June summit draft statement was a step backwards.

The draft's mention of the decision by EU leaders last year to open the membership negotiations with Ankara was a "good formula," he said, adding: "It is not important whether we add a lot of smoke to that."

"We must honour the commitments we have made...or pay a high price for it," Fischer insisted.

Negative public perceptions about enlargement were based on economic fears, he said. But these had to be balanced with the security needs of engagement in the Balkans.

A spokesman for the Luxembourg EU presidency confirmed that the new draft did not focus on enlargement, saying this was because the summit's focus was on other issues.

"We do not want to burden leaders' agenda," the spokesman said.

Opposition to Turkish entry into the EU is believed to be one of the factors which contributed to the French and Dutch 'no' votes on a new EU treaty. Opinion polls show that the issue is also unpopular in other EU states.

EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Austrian reporters on Monday that while she expected talks with Turkey to start as planned, negotiations must not proceed too rapidly.

"We must slow down a little," she said. Ferrero-Waldner made the comments after a fellow Austrian, Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser on Sunday said he did not consider Turkey "ripe for accession."

Diplomats said the latest draft would only make a brief mention of Croatia's efforts to meet EU membership standards.

Negotiations with Zagreb were put on hold in March this year pending Croatia's full cooperation with The Hague-based international war-crimes tribunal on the former Yugoslavia.

Queried on the future of the EU constitution, Fischer said Germany believed ratification must continue but member states must decide individually on what to do next.

If a country appeared headed for a rebuff of the treaty, it made little sense to continue with the process, he said.

A reflection on the message sent by EU voters on the constitution could be undertaken by a special group or by existing EU institutions but this must be done without delay, Fischer underlined.

Support for the EU must continue because "Europe gives us protection within globalisation," he stressed.

The German foreign minister said a compromise deal on a new EU budget to cover expenditure in 2007-2013 was still possible at the summit. But he predicted that the meeting would probably end up with an "interim" deal which could be finalised later.

Fischer's comments underline the challenges facing the 25-nation bloc as it strives to tackle both the constitutional crisis and the deadlock on the budget.

The financial dispute has worsened following Britain's refusal to give the budget rebate - now worth EUR 4.6 billion - that it won in 1984.

"We are ready to use our veto if necessary," British foreign secretary Jack Straw warned late on Sunday.

Britain has said any major review of EU finances should include steps to slash farm spending, a move fiercely opposed by France.

In addition to the controversial British rebate, EU nations are divided over just how much money to set aside for the bloc's joint budget.

Six of the EU's richest member states,- Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Britain and the Netherlands - insist that spending on the bloc's policies should be kept under 1 percent of the EU's collective Gross National Income (GNI).

But diplomats said the rich nation group was unravelling, with Austria, France and Germany now ready to take a more flexible stance - provided there was a deal on reviewing the British rebate.


Subject: German news

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