PRESIDENCY CONCLUSIONS1. Just when the European Union is introducing its single currency, its enlargement is becoming irreversible and it is initiating an important debate on its future, the European Council meeting in Laeken on 14 and 15 December 2001 has provided fresh impetus to increase the momentum of its integration.2. The European Council's discussions were preceded by an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, Mrs Nicole Fontaine, on the principal items on the agenda.I. THE FUTURE OF THE UNIONThe Laeken declaration3. Following the conclusions adopted in Nice, the European Council adopted the declaration set out in Annex I. That declaration and the prospects it opens mark a decisive step for the citizen towards a simpler Union, one that is stronger in the pursuit of its essential objectives and more definitely present in the world. In order to ensure that preparation for the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference is as broadly based and transparent as possible, the European Council has decided to convene a Convention, with Mr V. Giscard d'Estaing as President and Mr G. Amato and Mr J.L. Dehaene as Vice Presidents. All the candidate countries will take part in the Convention. In parallel with the proceedings of the Convention, a Forum will make it possible to give structure to and broaden the public debate on the future of the Union that has already begun.4. In parallel with the proceedings of the Convention, a certain number of measures can already be taken without amending the Treaties. In this context, the European Council welcomes the Commission's white paper on governance and the Council Secretary General's intention of submitting, before the European Council meeting in Barcelona, proposals for adapting the Council's structures and functioning to enlargement. The European Council will draw the operational conclusions from it at its meeting in Seville. Finally, the European Council welcomes the final report by the High Level Advisory Group ("Mandelkern Group") on the quality of regulatory arrangements and the Commission communication on regulatory simplification, which should lead to a practical plan of action in the first half of 2002.Transition to the Euro5. The introduction of Euro notes and coins on 1 January 2002 will be the culmination of a historic process of decisive importance for the construction of Europe. Every measure has been taken to ensure that the physical introduction of the Euro is a success. The use of the Euro on international financial markets should be easier as a result. The Euro area now represents a pole of stability for those countries participating in it by protecting them from speculation and financial turmoil. It is strengthening the internal market and contributing to the maintenance of healthy fundamental figures, fostering sustainable growth. The Euro is also helping to bring the citizens of the Union closer together by giving visible, concrete expression to the European design. In that regard, the European Council welcomes the recent adoption by the Council and the European Parliament of a Decision intended to reduce substantially the cost of cross border payments in Euro.The European security and defence policy6. The European Council has adopted the declaration on the operational capability of the European security and defence policy set out in Annex II, as well as the Presidency report. Through the continuing development of the ESDP, the strengthening of its capabilities, both civil and military, and the creation of appropriate structures within it and following the military and police Capability Improvement Conferences held in Brussels on 19 November 2001, the Union is now capable of conducting some crisis-management operations. The Union is determined to finalise swiftly arrangements with NATO. These will enhance the European Union's capabilities to carry out crisis-management operations over the whole range of Petersberg tasks. In the same way, the implementation of the Nice arrangements with the Union's partners will augment its means of conducting crisis management operations. Development of the means and capabilities at its disposal will enable the Union progressively to take on more demanding operations.Enlargement7. The Commission document entitled "Making a success of enlargement", the regular reports and the revised partnerships for accession are a solid framework for the success of the accession process, which is now irreversible. The Berlin European Council established the financial framework permitting enlargement.8. In recent months considerable progress has been made in the negotiations and certain delays have been made good. The European Union is determined to bring the accession negotiations with the candidate countries that are ready to a successful conclusion by the end of 2002, so that those countries can take part in the European Parliament elections in 2004 as members. Candidacies will continue to be assessed on their own merits, in accordance with the principle of differentiation. The European Council agrees with the report of the Commission, which considers that, if the present rate of progress of the negotiations and reforms in the candidate States is maintained, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Slovenia could be ready. It appreciates the efforts made by Bulgaria and Romania and would encourage them to continue on that course. If those countries are to receive specific support, there must be a precise framework with a timetable and an appropriate roadmap, the objective being to open negotiations with those countries on all chapters in 2002.9. The candidate countries must continue their efforts energetically, in particular to bring their administrative and judicial capabilities up to the required level. The Commission will submit a report on the implementation of the plan of action for strengthening institutions to the Seville European Council in June 2002.10. The roadmap drawn up by the Nice European Council remains fully applicable. At the beginning of 2002 the Commission will propose common positions on the agriculture, regional policy and budgetary chapters on the basis of the present acquis and of the principles decided on in Berlin. Proceedings on the drafting of the accession treaties will begin in the first half of 2002.11. The European Council welcomes the recent meetings between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and would encourage them to continue their discussions with a view to an overall solution under the auspices of the United Nations consistent with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.12. Turkey has made progress towards complying with the political criteria established for accession, in particular through the recent amendment of its constitution. This has brought forward the prospect of the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey. Turkey is encouraged to continue its progress towards complying with both economic and political criteria, notably with regard to human rights. The pre-accession strategy for Turkey should mark a new stage in analysing its preparedness for alignment on the acquis.II. THE UNION'S ACTION FOLLOWING THE ATTACKS IN THE USA ON 11 SEPTEMBERThe Union's action in Afghanistan13. The European Council welcomes the signing in Bonn on 5 December of the agreement defining the provisional arrangements applicable in Afghanistan pending the re-establishment of permanent State institutions. It urges all Afghan groups to implement that agreement.14. The European Council has undertaken to participate in the efforts of the international community with a view to restoring stability in Afghanistan on the basis of the outcome of the Bonn Conference and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. In that context, it encourages the deployment of an international security force, which would be mandated, on the basis of a resolution of the United Nations Security Council, to contribute to the security of the Afghan and international administrations established in Kabul and the surrounding areas and to the establishment and training of anew Afghan security and armed forces. The Member States of the Union are examining their contributions to such a force. The participation of the Member States of the Union in that international force will provide a strong signal of their resolve to better assume their crisis management responsibilities and hence help stabilise Afghanistan.15. The urgent needs of the Afghan people mean that humanitarian aid continues to be an absolute priority. The delivery of such aid, inter alia for refugees and displaced persons, must be adapted to changes in the situation and must take place in as efficient and well-co-ordinated a manner as possible. The Union has already pledged or is ready to pledge a total of EUR 352 million for humanitarian aid, of which EUR 103 million will come from the Community budget.16. More than twenty years of war and political instability have destroyed the structures of Afghan society, completely disrupted the functioning of the public institutions and authorities and caused immense human suffering. The European Union will help the Afghan people and its new leaders rebuild the country and encourage as swift a return to democracy as possible. The situation of women will merit particular attention. Rehabilitation and reconstruction will require international co-operation and co-ordination. The European Union has appointed Mr Klaus-Peter Klaiber Special Representative in Afghanistan under the authority of the High Representative for the CFSP. On 21 December in Brussels, the Union will co-chair the first meeting of the steering group to support political renewal in Afghanistan and better co-ordinate donors' efforts with a view to the ministerial conference scheduled for January 2002 in Tokyo...

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