COPENHAGEN — European Union leaders and 10 candidate nations agreed Friday on an enlargement aimed at sweeping away the lingering effects of World War II and the Cold War while reinforcing democracy and economic growth in nations behind what was once called the Iron Curtain.
"In 1989, brave and visionary people tore down the Berlin Wall," Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the summit host, said at a final news conference. "Today we have delivered on their hopes.... We have closed one of the bloodiest and darkest chapters in European history. Europe is spreading its wings in freedom, in prosperity and in peace."
Scheduled to join the bloc on May 1, 2004, are Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta. The expansion will boost the EU land area by 23% and its population by 20%, to 450 million. New members' economic output, however, equals just 5% of gross domestic product of the current 15-member group.
The two-day summit also endorsed a target date of 2007 for Romania and Bulgaria to join the union and agreed that Turkey could begin accession negotiations "without further delay" if it meets democratic and human rights criteria in a December 2004 review. Turkey had hoped for such talks to begin next year.
"This is a summit that redefines Europe," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said as the meeting's success became clear. "This is an extraordinary moment for Europe's history."
Blair acknowledged that a toughly negotiated $41-billion package of support aimed at helping new members catch up with the richer countries of Western Europe will hit the EU budget hard. "People worry, if you're bringing poorer countries into the European Union, doesn't that impose a huge burden?" he noted.
But previous expansions have shown that new members quickly bring "prosperity not just to their own people but to every part of the European Union," Blair said. "Yes, there is a short-term cost. But the long-term benefits ... in terms of trade, prosperity and living standards, as well as security, far outweigh any of the short-term costs."
Coordinated discussions were also held here and at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels on Friday on EU plans to mount peacekeeping operations using NATO assets such as heavy transport planes, command and control facilities and satellite intelligence gathering. At the NATO meeting, in action seen as part of a bid to cultivate favor with the European Union, Turkey lifted its long-standing veto of those plans.
That means the EU will now be "able to conduct operations where NATO does not want to get engaged," Blair told reporters here. The agreement sets the stage for EU forces to possibly take over peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
There was general satisfaction but no mood of great celebration in the candidate countries, eight of which were formerly under communist rule. Market-oriented reforms have imposed burdens such as unemployment and inflation, and people know that more tough changes lie ahead.
Joining the European Union "changes entirely our geopolitical situation," but "unfortunately there is a deficit of joyfulness among Poles," said Piotr Nowina Konopka, a prominent former dissident who is now dean of the College of Europe's Natolin campus in Warsaw. "We are unable to feel happy surrounded by everyday problems."
Hopes that a United Nations-brokered deal between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on reuniting the island could be reached during the two-day summit were not realized, and EU leaders concluded negotiations on entry terms with the island's internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government. Turkish Cypriots can join if they agree to a reunification plan.
The island has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece. Turkish Cypriots make up about 18% of Cyprus' 750,000 population and control about one-third of the island.
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, in comments to domestic media, blamed "prejudice against us" for the failure to win an earlier date for launching EU accession negotiations. But he took a more upbeat line later Friday, declaring at a news conference that "we will continue our reform process for our own people. We are not doing this for others.... We continue to want to be members of the EU."
Turkey will "prove if it joins the EU that a Muslim country can be democratic and comfortable with the modern world," Gul said.
"Turkey would have liked an earlier date, but for 40 years Turkey has been wanting a firm date, and this is a firm date," Blair said. Turkey has sought to join the European Union since the early 1960s, but the bloc has cited concerns about the country's human rights record and economy in refusing until now to give it serious consideration.