Politics and policies: Preparations for EU enlargement

Czech Republic
Government leaders from 26 countries across Europe have met to discuss the enlargement of the EU. The Conference was the first of its kind, bringing together heads of government and foreign ministers from the 15 EU Member States and 11 countries that have applied to join the Union (10 from Central and Eastern Europe, plus Cyprus). The Conference provided a forum for discussion of issues concerning enlargement and improvement of policy co-ordination. The meeting was the first of a series of high-level exchanges. The accession process, developing the EU's partnership with the 11 applicant states, will start on 30 March and negotiations with 6 countries will be formally launched on 31 March. Meanwhile, the Commission has drafted ten Accession Partnership Agreements for each of the applicant countries other than Cyprus. The Conference was marred only by the absence of Turkey and the related problems associated with Cyprus' EU membership bid.