Santer gives pledge on funding

 

Urging the EU summit, which begins tomorrow, to give a green light to Commission proposals on enlargement, the President of the European Commission, Mr Jacques Santer, promised that countries like Ireland would be protected financially.

Those countries and regions which were losing their eligibility for structural funding would have "a soft landing guaranteed on the basis of generous transition arrangements", he said, echoing the promise of Agenda 2000.

Mr Santer rejected claims that the Commission's proposals to begin accession talks with only five countries and Cyprus next year would leave other central and eastern European accession countries with less EU aid than the "ins".

If account was taken of the smaller GNP per capita of the other five with whom talks would not open, they would in reality be receiving up to a third more aid than the "ins" from the £56 billion being allocated to accession countries by the Union, he said.

Mr Santer put down a marker to Turkey that although the Union was keen to recommit itself to eventual Turkish membership and to include it in a pre-accession European Conference, such a move would have to be on the basis of "good neighbourliness". Turkey should agree to submit its territorial disputes with Greece to the World Court and facilitate Cyprus accession, he said.

Greece is still blocking the idea of a European conference but is likely to face stiff pressure tomorrow to soften its position.