Belgian EU presidency will push for enlargement: government

28th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Belgium will support the enlargement of the European Union to include Croatia, Iceland and Turkey during its upcoming presidency of the bloc, a seniour official said Monday.

"Belgium wants to continue with these three dossiers launched by Spain, that of Croatia, Turkey and Iceland," Belgian secretary of state for EU affairs Olivier Chastel told a joint news conference with his Spanish counterpart, Diego Lopez Garrido.

He raised the possibility of the opening of a new chapter in negotiations with Turkey in the coming months after Spain, which currently holds the EU presidency, backed Ankara's bid despite resistance from France and Germany.

Belgium takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency from Spain on July 1.

The EU began membership talks with Turkey in 2005 but the process has made slow progress. Only 12 of the 35 policy chapters, which all EU candidate countries must successfully negotiate prior to membership, are open.

Eight chapters remain totally blocked due to Ankara's failure to open its borders to EU member Cyprus.

EU leaders agreed on June 17 to open membership negotiations with Iceland despite differences over whale hunting and a bank collapse that hit British and Dutch investors.

Croatia has said it hopes to wrap up talks to join the European Union by the end of the year and become a member by 2012.

Hungary, which takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency on January 1 2011, "hopes to sign the accession treaty with Croatia" during its term in charge, Hungarian secretary of state for EU affairs Eniko Gyori told the news conference.

"The Spanish presidency has done good work in this area. We hope that the progress will continue under the Belgian presidency and that we will be in a position to conclude and sign with Croatia," he said.

Croatia would be the 28th member of the EU and only the second, after Slovenia, among the six former Yugoslav republics.

© 2010 AFP

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