Commissioner Günter VERHEUGEN gave MEPs a preview on Tuesday of the forthcoming monitoring reports on outstanding problems in the ten countries joining the EU in May 2004 but stressed that in his view the problems would be solved before accession takes place. Speaking at a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Verheugen began by saying that enlargement would definitely be a success, adding that he was convinced more than ever that the EU had timed this enlargement exactly right.
Mr Verheugen said that the reports, which will be published formally and presented to the European Parliament on 5 November, would show that the preparations for accession were proceeding as planned. As countries which still have some work to do, the Commissioner cited Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia.
Cyprus will have to sort out problems in the fields of asylum, maritime safety and energy policy. The Czech Republic must improve its performance as regards freedom of movement, some aspects of its agricultural policy, fiscal policy and financial control. Estonia needs to work on its social policy - labour policies and equal treatment of men and women - and fisheries. Hungary must take further measures on certain aspects of its agricultural policy and financial control. Latvia needs to act on some areas of freedom of movement, viz. the mutual recognition of qualifications in the health sector, animal health, fiscal policy, automation of customs procedures and financial control. Malta should align its competition and fiscal policies more with EU legislation. Poland still displays shortcomings in the free movement of goods and of services, some aspects of its agricultural policies, fisheries, social policy, culture and broadcasting, customs and financial control. Finally, Slovakia still has problems with the freedom of services, some aspects of its agricultural policy and regional policy.
Answering questions from MEPs, the Commissioner acknowledged that police corruption and the trafficking in young girls in the Czech Republic were a grave problem, saying it was scandalous these things happened right in the middle of Europe. He urged the German and Czech governments to take more vigorous action, but stressed that EU competences in this field were restricted.
Negotiations with Romania and Bulgaria were making good progress, Mr Verheugen said, although he warned that there was no guarantee that they would be concluded by the end of 2004.
As regards Turkey, the Commissioner said that the present government was showing great determination to speed up reforms in order to meet the Copenhagen political criteria. Mr Verheugen urged Turkey to prioritise reinforcement of the judiciary system, improvement of the social and economic situation in the South-Eastern part of the country and parliamentary control over the defence budget. It was too early to give a clear picture, he said, but further efforts are required in order to put the reforms into practice. Mr Verheugen mentioned the retrial of Leyla Zana in this respect. However, the Turkish government is fully aware of the problems with implementing the reforms, he said, adding it was encouraging that the government seemed to want the reforms for their own sake as well and not only in order to meet the requirements of EU membership. In its report on Turkish progress towards EU membership, which is intended to help the European Council in December 2004 to take a decision on opening negotiations with Turkey, the Commission would look at the reforms both on paper and in practice. Mr Verheugen warned Turkey not to use Cyprus as a bargaining tool to obtain a date for the opening of accession negotiations.