CR leaves EU summit in Seville assured that expansion process is on track

European Union's summit in Seville - Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, photo: CTK

Representatives of the Czech Republic and other candidates for EU membership are confident that their bids to join the union in 2004 are well on track. During the European Union's summit in Seville over the weekend, the leaders of the 15 member states assured the EU hopefuls that they were determined to conclude membership negotiations in December and have the accession treaties signed in the spring of 2003. But despite the declaration it was clear that disputes within the EU over the costs of enlargement are far from resolved. One such dispute includes costly farm subsidies - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cast doubt on a pledge made by EU leaders at the summit to forge a key deal in November on farm subsidies for newcomers. Dita Asiedu spoke to Ivan Jancarek, head of the Czech Foreign Ministry's EU Western European department, and began by asking him how he evaluated progress made at the summit:

European Union's summit in Seville - Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, photo: CTK
"One should stress that enlargement was not the main issue at the summit - it was cooperation, immigration, and asylum policies - but the conclusions of the summit are favourable to the candidate countries and we heard many statements of the European politicians saying that the EU must adhere to this enlargement timetable - that it should happen in the year 2004 - otherwise it would affect the credibility of the European Union."

I know that one factor or area that accession talks focus on is farm subsidies...

"That's right. I would like to assure our farmers that we are aiming at reaching such a good compromise that it will mean a possibility for our farmers to be competitive once the Czech Republic joins the European Union. I think that during the autumn we will be able to negotiate a good deal that will need to be looked upon in the whole context - not just focus on one specific aspect. One has to take into account the entire complexity of the issue."

Yes, of course but I believe that some are also worried that it will take much longer, that it will not be by the autumn but rather by the end of the year before the EU will be able to say how much money there is going to be available. In that case, some say, the candidate countries - including the Czech Republic - will not have enough time to actually go into negotiation, that there will be a sort of 'take it or leave it' attitude...

"The conclusions of the summit speak very clearly."

Well, that's good news for the farmers then. Now, another area that was discussed quite a bit at the summit was the fear of a large number of illegal immigrants. The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman supported forming a single EU border police force. Does the Czech Republic also support the idea or is it a little more skeptic than Mr Zeman?

"Well, I think it's the conviction of the Czech Republic, that the common protection of the external borders of the EU is a good thing and it should be followed up in discussions between the member states. That goal was not reached in the Seville summit but that does not mean that it won't be reached in the near future and I think what the Prime Minister said showed where the Czech Republic would stand once it will be a member of the European Union."