EU warns Baltics not to expect more funding

  • 2002-10-17

The European Union this week warned Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania not to expect any extra financial aid in their final negotiations with Brussels next month on the terms of their entry to the EU.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, issued the warning at the start of a two-day summit devoted to the theme of the three Baltic states' development.

"There are possibilities to change certain things in the bilateral talks, but the overall picture remains the same," said Moeller, as he opened the meeting with his Swedish counterpart Anna Lindh.

"There's no more money on the table than has already been proposed. The enlargement budget cannot be increased."

Around 400 politicians, business leaders and experts from northern European countries attended the Baltic Development Forum's annual meeting in the Danish capital.

The aim of the meeting was to strengthen political and economic ties between northern European countries and their three Baltic neighbors in order to maximize the benefits of their entry into the EU in its imminent first wave of enlargement.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were listed in an EU report earlier this month among the 10 Central and Eastern European countries deemed to be on course for membership in 2004.

But the report also said Latvia and Lithuania had more work to do to boost employment and combat official corruption, while Estonia's customs and fisheries policies needed some changes.

All three countries last month appealed to the EU to increase the production quotas set to be imposed after enlargement, which would affect the levels of agricultural payments they will receive.

They argued that the proposals on the table were based on production levels in the late 1990s, when exports were hit by an economic crisis in neighboring Russia.

One of Foreign Minister Moeller's predecessors, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, urged EU member states at the Baltic Forum not to be too tough in economic talks with the 10 candidate countries, which are set to conclude at next month's EU summit in Copenhagen.

"What we're giving to the candidate countries represents a very small fraction of the EU budget," Ellemann-Jensen said, describing aid to prospective EU members as "an investment in our own security for the future".

Denmark has long championed the Baltics' EU membership aspirations among EU countries more with fewer connections to the region.