Finland says EU must remain open
Vanhanen was explaining the Finnish agenda for its six-month presidency of the EU to members of the European parliament. He said he was pleased that European leaders agreed last month not to add new criteria for membership. Enlarging the EU spread stability and democracy, he said, and was a response to the "challenges of globalisation". Vanhanen noted that a final decision would be taken during the Finnish presidency on an accession date for Bulgaria and Romania - likely to be 1 January 2007. Membership talks with Turkey and Croatia would continue to move forward "on the basis of the progress made". Correspondents say a crisis is looming in negotiations with Turkey, as Ankara gives no sign of formally recognizing EU member Cyprus, or opening its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and ships. Vanhanen's comments marked a change in tone compared with the last holder of the EU presidency, Austria, which wanted the EU's capacity to absorb new countries to become a criterion for membership. Eurosceptic MEP Nigel Farage, of the UK Independence Party, accused the Finnish leader of riding roughshod over public opinion in Europe. "It's business as usual and you're going to press on with enlargement, you're going to press on with a common asylum policy, despite that fact that your own countrymen and virtually nobody else wants it," he said.
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