Банкеръ Weekly

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THE 5TH EU ENLARGEMENT TO END WHERE IT STARTED

The Luxembourg EU Presidency Outlines its PrioritiesThe historical fifth enlargement of the European Union (EU) by twelve countries from Central and Eastern Europe will end just where it started - in Luxembourg. That will happen on 25 and 26 April 2005, when the ministers of the member countries are scheduled to meet. During that session an agreement will be signed for the integration of Bulgaria and Romania. The governments of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus were invited to negotiate in Luxembourg in December 1997.The calendar of all most important events in the EU during the first half of 2005 was announced recently, together with the priorities of the Luxembourg presidency that started on January 1. A decision was taken at the meeting of the state and government leaders held in the middle of last December that the agreement with Bulgaria and Romania would be signed in April. No particular day was scheduled. Now the agenda of the Council of Ministers is to be approved in order to make it clear whether the ceremony welcoming the two countries will take place on 25 or 26 April. Most probably that will be the first day of the meeting so that the delegations from Sofia and Bucharest be able to take part in the work of the council as joining and not applying countries. Earlier, the European Parliament will have to approve the integration agreement, too. Its spring session will be held in Strasbourg from 11 to 14 April. Along with the conclusion of all formalities regarding the integration of Bulgaria and Romania during the Luxembourg presidency, prejoining negotiations are to begin with Croatia. They are scheduled to start in Brussels on March 17. March will appear fateful for Macedonia as well. By that time the country is obliged to have answered the questions asked by the European Commission. Only then will the European experts announce their opinion to the member countries - whether or not to invite Skopje to discuss its integration. The relations between Brussels and Turkey are expected to advance with much lower speed, although the country expects the beginning of talks about its integration into the EU.The Luxembourg Government is expected to do a very serious job on the diplomatic front, too. It will have to assist the authorities of the EU member states which have the difficult task to convince their compatriots or parliaments of voting in favour of the ratification of the single European constitution. It was signed in Rome on October 29, 2004, but will only become valid after being ratified by the 25 member countries.Another priority of the Luxembourg presidency is the application of efficient measures for completing the construction of a single domestic market. A task inherited from the Dutch presidency which ended on December 31, 2004 is to evaluate the implementation of the Lisbon strategy. The document adopted in the Portuguese capital aims at making the single domestic market the fastest growing economy in the world by 2010. The achievements in that aspect will be analysed during the meeting of the leaders of the 25 countries next March. They will also discuss the measures for better administration of the Economic and Monetary Union within the eurozone as well as the improvement of the efficiency of the Stability Pact.The most important forthcoming decision within the EU is probably the achievement of political consent about the principles of preparing the future single budget for the period 2007 - 2013. According to various analysts, even if that remains the only achievement of the current presidency, it would be extremely valuable considering the significant discords on financial matters among the 25 EU member states.

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