Dáil Éireann - Volume 514 - 16 February, 2000
Written Answers. - EU Enlargement.
Mr. Shatter Mr. Shatter
35. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give an assessment of the EU enlargement process, including the timescale and state of readiness for membership of each applicant state. [4283/00]
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he envisages Turkey becoming a member of the EU. [4285/00]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 40 together.
As the Deputies will be aware, the current accession process was launched by the 15 EU member states, the ten central and eastern European states and Cyprus on 30 March 1998. The following day, actual negotiations were inaugurated with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus. These countries are often referred to as the “ins or 5+1”. Negotiations have continued with these countries since then on a policy chapter basis.
At the same time, a preparatory process for negotiations continued with the other original applicants, the so-called “pre-ins” – Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia. Malta joined this group in 1999.
Based upon recommendations from the Commission, the Helsinki European Council on 10 December 1999 decided that the “pre-ins”, including Malta, had reached such a level of preparation that accession negotiations could be opened in 2000. These negotiations began formally in Brussels on 15 February 2000. Actual substantive negotiations will start in March. The European Council also decided that the accession negotiation process for all 12 accession countries should be on an equal footing and that each should proceed on the basis of its own merits and level of preparedness.
Importantly, the Helsinki European Council affirmed that the European Union should be in a position to welcome new member states from the end of 2002, as soon as they have demonstrated their ability to assume the obligations of membership and once the negotiating process has been successfully completed.
The Helsinki European Council granted candidate status and an intensified pre-negotiation relationship with the EU to Turkey. Turkey will now benefit from a pre-accession strategy to stimulate and support its reforms. Significantly, this will entail a political dialogue with a particular emphasis on human rights. Actual accession negotiations cannot begin with Turkey until that country fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria. These rigorous criteria of democracy, human rights, protection of minorities and the rule of law are the same for Turkey as for all other applicant countries.
Dáil Éireann 514 Written Answers. EU Enlargement.