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It is a great pleasure for me to be here tonight and to meet this distinguished circle of EU journalists.
I am particularly happy to have this opportunity since I have high ambitions for a good and open relationship with the press during the Presidency. As you are probable all aware, openness and transparency in the EU has long been, and remains, a clear priority for the Danish government. We will continue this policy of openness during our Presidency.
I am therefore also very pleased that important progress in this field was reached at the Seville European Council. In the future, the Council will be open to the public at the beginning and the end of the co-decision procedure. This is an important step in the direction of full openness in the legislative process. We will seek to implement these decisions in an ambitious manner during our Presidency.
The Presidency website will be a key tool in the efforts to promote maximum transparency. On the website, there will be easy access to documents and up-to-date information on Presidency plans and meetings at all levels. We will also deliver swift access to information about Council meetings and ministerial appearances in the European Parliament.
Openness is also about accessibility. The Danish government has taken steps to ensure that there will be a good access to the Presidency.
As you probably all know, we are so fortunate to have a very well functioning permanent representation in Brussels. This will of course be your primary point of contact with the Danish Presidency. In accordance with normal practice, regularly briefings will be held by the Representation before Council meetings.
Naturally, you will also be able to contact the Government here in Copenhagen. We have taken steps to provide easy access to information from the government.
In Denmark, we do not have a tradition for government spokespersons. Civil servants can contribute with background information, but only ministers are quoted by the press. During the Presidency, we will make an exception from this general rule. We have authorized a number of press officers and civil servants to deliver information to the press about Presidency positions. They will also, if agreed between you and them, be able to go “on the record” on behalf of the Presidency.
On our website, you will find contact details for these contact persons for the press.
But the final responsibility remains with the ministers. We will not hide behind these press officers and other contact persons. I, and my ministers, will give high priority to meetings with the press.
I will now turn to the priorities of our Presidency.
The Danish Presidency has one very clear main task: to complete the negotiations on the enlargement of the EU with up to ten new countries.
But enlargement will not be the only task ahead. We face a full and highly substantial agenda in other areas as well.
The headlines besides enlargement will be:
First, greater freedom, security and justice. We must enhance the fight against terrorism, crime and illegal immigration.
Second, sustainable development: economically, socially and environmentally. We will work to promote economic growth hand in hand with protection of the environment and the creation of more jobs.
Third, safe food: We must review the Common Agricultural Policy, seek a solution on a new Fisheries Policy and continue the implementation of the white paper on food safety.
Fourth, the global responsibility of the EU. We must strengthen the Common Foreign and Security Policy, further develop the strong bonds between the USA and Europe and work for a global deal between the rich and poor countries of the world.
As I said, enlargement is our most important task. It will be up to the Danish Presidency to conclude enlargement negotiations with up to 10 new Member States. We have formulated that ambition as a completion of the circle “From Copenhagen To Copenhagen”. It was in Copenhagen in 1993 that the basic principles for the enlargement process were defined. And we now have a chance to conclude negotiations in Copenhagen by the end of this year. Now – ten years after - we must deliver on our promises.
Nevertheless, it will not be an easy task to actually close negotiations by December. Candidate countries as well as existing Member States must be flexible. A successful outcome of the negotiations in Copenhagen requires the commitment of all involved.
I will follow three principles for the conclusion of negotiations:
First of all, negotiations should be concluded by December 2002. We risk to postpone enlargement for years if we do not meet this deadline. That would be a historical mistake – not least in the light of the dramatic reforms the candidate countries have implemented during the last few years.
Secondly, negotiations should be concluded with those countries that are ready. We hope to welcome all 10 countries. But we cannot compromise on the basic criteria for membership.
Thirdly, no country should be asked to wait for other countries. That would not be fair. If only some of the 10 countries are ready, we should conclude with them.
Difficult concrete issues in the negotiation process will need to be overcome before we can conclude negotiations in Copenhagen. At least three questions are of particular importance:
First of all, there is the question of distribution of benefits and the sharing of costs. This question is particularly relevant in relation to negotiations on agriculture and budget. The Commission has prepared a very balanced and reasonable proposal.
We must solve this problem no later than the beginning of November. The European Council in Seville confirmed this. It will give us the necessary time to complete negotiations with the candidate countries before the Copenhagen summit. We cannot postpone this deadline. It could seriously delay the whole enlargement process.
Secondly there is the question of Cyprus. Cyprus is doing very well in the accession negotiations and it is one of the countries which has closed most negotiation chapters. As a candidate country, Cyprus has a right to join when it is ready.
At the same time, the division of the island poses a problem. The European Council in Helsinki addressed the issue. It said that a solution to the problem would be an advantage but not a precondition. It also said that a decision on the accession of Cyprus would be taken taking all relevant factors into account. We will proceed on that basis. All parties – on both sides – need to make an effort in finding a solution.
Thirdly, there is the question of the second Irish referendum on the Nice Treaty. I welcome the declaration on Irish neutrality from the Seville summit. It sends a clear and positive signal from Europe to the Irish people. Ratification of the Nice Treaty is a political condition for enlargement. Negotiations on the enlargement take place on the basis of the Nice Treaty. A new no would jeopardise the whole enlargement process.
When we conclude negotiations with the countries that are ready we must not forget those that are not. Already now we know that this group will include Bulgaria and Romania. For these countries we will have to formulate new and realistic road maps for continued negotiations with the EU. We will also need to reassess our relations with Turkey and possibly make new decisions in the light of developments.
These hurdles and tasks are indeed impressive. But I am an optimist. We have a historic opportunity to unite our continent by finalising enlargement negotiations in December. To achieve that is a joint challenge and a joint opportunity. We cannot afford to miss it.
We have a historic and moral obligation to seize the present opportunity to consolidate peace and create the basis for progress across the entire continent. Most of us have grown up in a divided Europe created on the ruins from devastating wars. The fall of the Berlin wall brought that division to an end. But it did not by itself create peace in Europe. In all the joy over the final end to communism, the nasty face of nationalism re-appeared. The Balkan wars are the most cruel and depressive examples.
We have learned that peaceful coexistence and cooperation in Europe is fragile. We should heed that lesson and act accordingly. We owe much of the last half century of peace and stability in Western Europe to the European integration project. We should now enlarge that zone of peace, stability and welfare. That is what enlargement is really about.
The candidate countries have made impressive efforts in transferring their societies in order to be able to join the EU. This process has not been without hardships and difficulties. This adds to the moral obligation to conclude the negotiations now.
The enlargement perspective must not be overshadowed by worries about the costs. The direct costs in the field of agriculture are very limited. The overall budget of the EU amounts to about 1% of our total production. About half of this, 0,5% of total production, goes to the CAP. What we are now discussing is to add what corresponds to less than 0,1% of our total yearly production during the current budgetary period. This really cannot justify to run the risk of postponing enlargement.
But even if one look at the enlargement from a narrow economic perspective, it is a “win-win situation”. Enlargement is also about promoting trade and higher economic growth in all our societies. I am convinced that it will help produce stronger growth in the new as well as the present Member States
As you see, the Danish Presidency has a very substantial agenda. The enlargement is at its top. If we succeed in concluding the first round of enlargement negotiations in December it will mark the closing of a dark chapter in the history of Europe.
We are at an extremely decisive moment. The opportunity is there to close negotiations on letting the applicant countries join our successful co-operation. Time has come to deliver on the promises we have given each other. The Danish Presidency will aim to make the deal in Copenhagen in December. We can create an undivided Europe, one Europe. This will be the historic task of the next six months.
Thank you for your attention.