Estonia geared to get better terms

  • 2002-12-05

Estonia will make a last-ditch effort ahead of a historic European Union enlargement summit Dec. 12-13 to win better entry terms from the union, Prime Minister Siim Kallas said Dec. 3.

"The principal issues we'll be negotiating are production quotas, farming subsidies and various smaller but important issues such as hunting lynx and bear," Kallas told reporters.

Estonia will also be keeping a close watch on other candidate countries' talks and the deals they hammer out, the prime minister added.

Poland, for instance, stated last week that it will demand more funds from the EU in order to support its agricultural sector.

"Estonia will try to keep negotiating till the last optimum moment. We don't want to leave talks until the summit... in case some major controversial issue crops up," he said.

The EU's Danish presidency last month presented a compromise offer on milk quotas to 10 aspiring nations, which in Estonia's case would raise the annual milk production quota to 626,000 tons.

The quota, according to the Danish proposal, would become effective in 2004. The EU's official offer in entry talks so far has been a quota of 534,000 tons per year, while Estonia has been holding out for 900,000 tons.

The package offered by Denmark includes an improvement also on the terms that Estonia would get in grain farming, where the base yield of 1.77 tons per hectare would be replaced with 2.4 tons per hectare.

In addition, Denmark is offering two candidate countries, Estonia and Hungary, a transition period of seven years during which they can restrict sale of land to foreigners. Estonia has never sought a transition period to be able to restrict sale of land to foreigners, but the topic has become an issue in domestic political debate.

The Danish proposal is not yet the final EU offer to candidates, and Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was planning to tour EU capitals this week to win support for the package.

Rasmussen warned EU hopefuls last week the accession conditions had to be agreed upon before the Copenhagen summit. Failure to end negotiations at the summit could delay their EU entry till the next round of enlargement, which is expected to be no earlier than 2007.