EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about the aims of the Belgian presidency on EU enlargement policy was published on 23rd June 2010 by EurActiv.

The upcoming Belgian EU Presidency has not specifically cited enlargement among its top priorities but is widely expected to help Croatia and Iceland reach important milestones in their accession bids over the next six months.

Croatia is expected to conclude its EU accession negotiations during the Belgian EU Presidency, while Iceland will formally start membership talks, political analysts told EurActiv.

Although officially Belgium is being “discrete” as to its intentions, Croatia can expect to finalise membership talks during Belgian Presidency, which starts on 1 July, according to Piotr Maciej Kaczy?ski of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels.

Indeed, a referendum in Slovenia two weeks ago appears to have cleared the main obstacle to Croatia’s EU accession (EurActiv 07/06/10). Days later, the Netherlands and Slovenia lifted their vetoes of two key negotiating chapters, raising hopes that the country could soon become the bloc’s 28th member (EurActiv 15/06/10).

As for Iceland, EU leaders recommended opening accession negotiations at their recent summit on 17 June.

Accession ‘to be based on merit’

Yves Leterme, Belgium’s caretaker prime minister, said enlargement would be “one of the priority dossiers” for the Belgian EU Presidency, whose foreign policy agenda is expected to be dominated by EU efforts to put in place the bloc’s new diplomatic service.

Speaking in Brussels alongside European Commission President José Manual Barroso on 26 May, Leterme said EU accession “should be based on merit” and take into account the Union’s “absorption capacity” as well as the accession countries’ administrative capacity to integrate the body of EU law.

“I believe that both the European Union and the countries concerned should be taken seriously,” said Leterme.

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