Dáil Éireann - Volume 585 - 19 May, 2004
Written Answers. - EU Enlargement.
Mr. P. McGrath Mr. P. McGrath
90. Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will advise on the time scale for the next round of enlargement of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14516/04]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: The European Council in December 2003 emphasised the continuity and irreversibility of this fifth round of enlargement, of which Bulgaria and Romania form an integral part. Over the past year, both countries have significantly taken forward their preparations for membership, and this is reflected in the well-advanced state of their accession negotiations.
The Union’s objective is to conclude negotiations with both countries on their own merits in 2004 and to sign a single accession treaty in 2005 in order that the two countries can accede in January 2007, if they are ready. Negotiations will be concluded on the same basis and principles applied to the other countries of this round of enlargement, the ten new member states which joined the EU on 1 May. As it holds the Presidency, Ireland is working to advance negotiations as rapidly as possible, in line with the clear political mandate given by the December European Council.
 The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 decided that Turkey is a candidate country destined to join the European Union on the basis of the same criteria applied to other candidate states. The December 2004 European Council will decide on the basis of a report and recommendation prepared by the Commission whether Turkey has fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria. If that decision is positive, the EU is committed to opening accession negotiations with Turkey without delay.
The Feira European Council in June 2000 agreed that the countries of the Western Balkans are potential candidates for EU membership. The EU-western Balkans summit in Thessaloniki last June confirmed that the shared objective of the EU and the countries of the region is their eventual integration into EU structures. It is agreed that the countries of the western Balkans will make progress individually, based on progress in negotiating and implementing stabilisation and association agreements with the EU, which involve wide-ranging institutional reforms, and on the development of increased regional co-operation.
Croatia formally applied for membership of the EU in February 2003. At the request of the Council, the Commission completed its opinion on the application in April. It concluded that Croatia meets the Copenhagen political criteria and the conditions set in the stabilisation and association process, and recommended the opening of accession negotiations. The Commission opinion will be discussed by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 14 June, in preparation for a decision by the June European Council.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia submitted its application for membership in a ceremony in Dublin on 22 March. The Council on 17 May decided to implement the procedure laid down in article 49 of the Treaty on European Union and requested the Commission to prepare its opinion on the application, for submission to the Council. This process is expected to take about one year to complete.
Dáil Éireann 585 Written Answers. EU Enlargement.