Irish vote will not stop enlargement, EU says

Luxembourg - The political crisis caused by Ireland's rejection of the European Union's Lisbon treaty will not stop the bloc's enlargement, with progress for Turkey, Bosnia and Croatia expected this week, EU officials said Monday.

There is "no direct link" between the Irish vote and enlargement, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said ahead of a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.

"Enlargement will not stop, the process of European unification and integration will not stop," Finland's Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said.

On Monday at 1600 (1400 GMT), Bosnia is scheduled to sign a long-awaited Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), a document which is aimed at bringing its economy and legal and political systems into line with EU norms, with the EU.

The document is widely seen as a major step on the way to acceptance as a full candidate for EU membership.

The EU initialled the SAA in December, but refused to sign until Bosnia reformed its police service, creating a single multi-ethnic body. The reform was finalized on April 16, but it has taken the EU two months to translate the SAA into all 23 official EU languages.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, the EU is set to hold pre-accession talks with two of the three current candidates for membership, Croatia and Turkey.

Both states have to bring their policies into line with EU ones in 35 so-called "chapters" dealing with such issues as the free movement of goods, financial services, energy and foreign policy.

The EU is expected to approve the opening of talks on two more chapters with each country on Tuesday. Croatia, which is widely tipped to join the EU next year, currently has 18 chapters open, while Turkey has six.

That decision would be "clear evidence of the enlargement process being on track," Rehn said.

Last Thursday, Irish voters in a referendum rejected the Lisbon treaty, meaning that Ireland cannot ratify the text and it therefore cannot come into force across the EU.

Some commentators had suggested that the move could have an impact on the EU enlargement process. (dpa)

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