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EU Summit: Problems Old and New

  • December 14th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

berlaymont-resize-150.jpgThe European Union Heads of Government end-of-year summit (14 and 15.12.06) this time includes representatives of Bulgaria and Romania, set to join the EU on New Year’s Day – making 27 member countries.

There’ll be some new problems to solve amid old ones that won’t go away.

Differences have come up in recent weeks over Turkey’s application for membership, first put forward well before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and actual entry of not only Bulgaria and Romania, but eight other former communist states.

This time the EU has suspended negotiations with Turkey on eight issues, about a quarter of the agenda. That’s because Turkish authorities are not honouring a prior commitment to let Cypriot ships and aircraft use its ports. Turkey says the island state of Cyprus, an EU member, has not been reciprocating.

Perhaps the heads of government and heads of state – leaders like Britain’s Tony Blair, the French President , Jacques Chirac, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel – will consider intervening.

They might notice also, that in the past week, the executive European Commission announced it was charging several EU member governments, with over five-hundred alleged infringements against European law – mostly concerning management of industries or the environment.

And they might have to debate differences with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, over petroleum supplies to Europe.

In mid-January the EU is set to make a strategic review of its Energy Plan for Europe, and produce a major report on dealing with climate change.

Relations with surrounding countries and regions form part of that. The EU is campaigning to connect them all in a network of oil and gas exploration, investment and industry development – including pipelines and electricity grids. It is considering a special program for relations with the energy-rich countries of Central Asia, like Kazakhstan, major source of oil, gas and uranium.

Mr Putin has objected to some of the East European countries joining the EU, making gestures like the suspension of certain food imports from those countries, claiming unsatisfactory controls on quality of product.

He has been demanding a bigger share for Russia in large-scale energy projects already under way, and told the EU leaders at their summit last October, in Finland, he was in no hurry to fit in with their plans.

The leaders of Europe have several other talking-points, like continuing clandestine immigration, from Africa especially.