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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 29, 2002
EU ACCESSION
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Breakthrough?
October 29, 2002   
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At the European Union summit in Brussels Oct. 24-25, the 15 member states supported the European Commission's recommendation on the readiness of the candidate countries to enter the EU before the European Parliament elections scheduled for June 2004.

The participation of the new candidates in access to EU funds was also determined. At the request of the Netherlands and Belgium, special clauses were adopted to urge new members to smoothly adjust to EU standards, both in terms of politics and the economy.
In the final document of the Brussels summit, Denmark, who chairs the EU at the moment, suggested that over the first three years, the 10 candidate countries have at their disposal 23 billion euros of structural and cohesion funds earmarked for regional development and infrastructure.

This is 2.6 billion euros less than what was proposed by the European Commission. The cut was demanded by Germany, backed by France and Great Britain. These countries believed that the new members would not be able to use the whole amount offered anyway.
Germany wanted to reduce the funds by 4 billion euros, but, according to German diplomats, it will be satisfied with a 2.6-billion cut. Of the 25.6 billion euros suggested by the European Commission, 13.8 billion was earmarked for Poland—the largest of the candidates. Assuming the same proportion would be kept with the amount of 23 billion euros, Poland would receive 12.4 billion—that is 1.4 billion less than the European Commission had proposed.
It will be possible to use the clauses allowing for the exclusion of a new member country from a certain area of cooperation—if it does not observe the rules—over the first three years after EU enlargement. The consequences of using the clauses may last longer and when deciding to withdraw them, the Commission must take into account the opinions of the member countries.

EU diplomats believe this is a “whip for Poland" because Polish delays in preparations for membership, described in the recent European Commission reports, were the main pretext used to demand clauses, particularly by the Netherlands. The Hague was also critical of other candidates—Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia.
The summit ordered the European Commission to keep supervising the candidates' adjustment to EU rules next year and to prepare a report six months before the expected accession date. In line with the summit's decision, on the basis of the report, the Commission on its own or at the request of a member country will be able to quote “special protective clauses" related to the rules of unified markets and the judiciary, visa and immigration cooperation.
“The protective clause may be used even before the new members' accession, on the basis of monitoring, and then it would come into force on the first day of membership," decided the summit participants.

The EU leaders did not give exact information, but according to diplomats, the application of the clauses might result in excluding a new member country from a certain area of EU cooperation. For example, if Poland were to be delayed in adjustment for agriculture, it would not receive the subsidies and would not be able to participate in decisions in this area.

The Danes suggested the inclusion in the final document of the agreement between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on freezing EU agricultural spending for 2007-13 at the 2006 level. So the 15 present and 10 new members, including Poland, will have to divide among themselves the same amount of money, despite the fact that in 2007-13 new members will be gradually approaching the full amount of subsidies offered by the
European Commission.

This does not necessarily mean a reduction in subsidies for the present members, because, according to EU experts, the growth of funds for new members can be provided through indexing the global sum with inflation.

The French-German formula is accepted by all member countries except the Netherlands. The Dutch demanded guarantees that the direct subsidies for the present members be significantly reduced, so that the Dutch contribution to the EU coffers would keep decreasing.
In the opinion of EU diplomats, the Netherlands has no chance of persuading France and other defenders of subsidies of its stand after the Germans failed to do so. Germany was satisfied with a promise of stabilization of expenditure and a general guideline, also accepted by Denmark, that all other expenses should not significantly grow after 2006.

The Fifteen have accepted the European Commission's proposal regarding gradual extension of direct subsidies to farmers from new member countries.

In the opinion of Józef Oleksy, head of the Sejm European Committee, the decisions made in Brussels cannot be called a breakthrough, because it planned that the summit would approve financial conditions for further negotiations with candidates. “I will be happy only at the end of negotiations—in November and December," Oleksy said Oct. 25. “The proposals do not differ from what the European Commission presented long ago, and which was greeted by the Polish government with a stand that included new proposals. This will be subject to negotiations and let us hope the talks will move the issue forward."

Oleksy admitted that through negotiations, there was a chance of obtaining larger direct subsidies than the 25 percent offered by the European Commission to farmers from the new member countries, but he refused to give details.

EU diplomats admit that at the end of negotiations, at the summit in Copenhagen (Dec. 12-13), the candidates will have a chance of winning 30-35-percent direct subsidies for their farmers in the first year of membership. These funds could be shifted from the rural areas development fund, which is difficult to use. Asked whether the decision to freeze spending on EU agriculture in 2007-20013 at the 2006 level posed any threat, Oleksy said that for the time being “the horizon until 2006" was most important for Poland.

“Only when we are an EU member and the new budget exists, will it be possible to talk about the further fate of direct subsidies," he said. “I assume that the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will be launched in the meantime."

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