EU hopefuls fear membership delay

Europe: Deadlock over finances at Vienna summit dismays Eastern European states as fishing faces new restrictions

LEADERS OF former communist states in Eastern Europe applying to join the EU are expressing dismay that the deadlock over Europe's future finances may delay their membership.

After last week's European Union summit in Vienna proved unable to agree anything more than a timetable for resolving the financing impasse, applicant countries voiced disappointment over the lack of progress.

Their fears were heightened by comments from Germany's Social Democrat Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, that agreement on a EU reform package cutting Germany's financial contributions was a precondition of Europe's enlargement .

However, a consensus seemed far away after a north-south split emerged at the meeting, with Spain preventing any mention in the summit conclusions of a plan favoured by Germany, France and Britain, to freeze the EU's budget.

Jerzy Buzek, the Prime Minister of Poland, one of the hopeful applicants, warned that "potential failures or delays in this domain could have a negative influence on the process of enlargement".

Despite repeated commitments from European leaders to the principle of expanding the EU eastwards, heads of the 15 member states failed to agree on a timetable. Formal accession negotiations have already started with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus. Altogether, 11 countries in all hope to join in the next decade.

With no sign of consensus on EU future funding, leaders are considering holding an extra summit in February to provide a final opportunity to explore compromise positions ahead of a crunch meeting in March.

In Vienna the leaders agreed to a March deadline to reach a decision on the reform package, called Agenda 2000.

Germany, which is by far the EU's biggest paymaster, is demanding a cut in its annual pounds 8bn net contributions. In the run-up to the summit the Germans took an increasingly strident tone, as Mr Schroder insisted Europe's problems could not be solved by reaching for a German cheque book.

Germany, France and Britain have supported moves to freeze the budget at current levels plus inflation for 2000-2006. The move is opposed by Spain, Portugal and Greece which are the main beneficiaries of EU funds targeted at Europe's poorer regions.

Britain's annual pounds 2bn budget rebate is still seen by Germany as part of the March negotiations. Although Tony Blair insisted the UK rebate was was "not negotiable", he reaffirmed his commitment to staying engaged in Europe. He indicated new flexibility on other areas arguing that Britain "will pay our share" of the costs of enlargement. That could result in a formula under which the rebate does not apply to the additional costs of admitting the candidate countries.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links