New EU nations start hard-sell

After the euphoria of clinching an invitation to join a new, enlarged EU of 450 million people, the former Communist countries of eastern Europe yesterday embarked on the task of selling membership to their sceptical electorates.

In Copenhagen, where the agreement was reached after 24 hours of haggling over the subsidies to be paid out from Brussels, there was unalloyed celebration at the deal which heals the historic division of Europe. President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland hailed the deal as "a happy end". Peteris Vinkelis, a political adviser to the Latvian premier, Einars Repse, said simply: "Mr Repse is in Copenhagen drinking champagne and I am here in Riga drinking Cognac – need I say more?"

But with a motley collection of Eurosceptics and nationalists across eastern Europe gearing up for referendum battles on EU entry, politicians began selling the merits of their accession deal in earnest. After a day of drama and horse-trading, the 10 nations – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta – accepted an improved package of subsidies worth €40.8bn (£26.3bn) between 2004 and 2006.

Poland, which has won a reputation for being the leader of the candidate countries' awkward squad, held out longest and hardest. It argued that, when the new nations' contributions to the EU were taken into account, they could gain, in total, no more than €12bn. A deal was finally done on Friday night when the Polish Prime Minister, Leszek Miller, accepted an improved offer from the Danish presidency of the EU, after the last of a series of tense meetings.

Complex funding rules were waived to allow Poland to spend €1bn, earmarked for helping its poorer regions, as it wishes. The Poles also won an extra €108m to beef up frontier controls and clinched larger milk quotas – a gain which could be crucial in reassuring the country's large and restive farm sector. With Warsaw accepting, the other nine nations fell into line,after being offered €300m divided between them. This was only a fraction of the extra €2bn the applicants had sought, gaining Mr Rasmussen the reputation of a tough and efficient negotiator.

As he concluded the marathon negotiations, which began in March 1998, Mr Miller said: "Our people surely deserve this chance for the future generations." He pointedly thanked Pope John Paul II for his support of Poland's bid. Warsaw knows that it will need all the support it can get if it is to win a referendum next year on the membership terms. The other nine candidate countries will also put the deal to their electorates. The first is likely to be Hungary – where support for EU membership is solid – in April.

But after the membership talks, the focus of domestic debate in several nations may shift from economic advantage to possible restrictions on their new-found freedoms from joining yet another bloc.

"We deserved a good deal because of our bitter past, being fully integrated into the Soviet Union with deportations to Siberia and all the rest of it," said Andris Kesteris, Latvia's chief negotiator. But he added that a referendum was a difficult issue, "because small nations are often very distrustful of becoming part of large organisations".

The EU in numbers:

Member states: 15 now, 25 in 2004

Population: 375 million now, rising to 450 million

GDP: £5,370bn now. The 10 new members have a combined GDP of only £214.5bn, the size of the Netherlands' economy

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker