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Monday, December 27, 2004

CHALLENGES 2004-2005: More Difficult Days Ahead for Europe

"More Difficult Days Ahead for Europe

Stefania Bianchi

BRUSSELS , Dec 27 (IPS) - European Union officials will undoubtedly breathe a sigh of relief when the final clock chimes to mark the end of 2004. It certainly has been a tough year for the bloc. But they should not sit back and relax too soon - 2005 could be even tougher.

In a busy year full of drama, highs and lows, and controversy, which saw a united and then a divided Union, leaders will be hoping that can look forward to a less tumultuous and scandal-free New Year. They say a week is a lifetime in politics. For the EU, 2004 may have seemed like an eternity.

It saw the bloc almost double in size from 15 member states to 25, embarrassing elections in the European Parliament, the signing of the controversial European constitution and the much-publicised appointment of a new team of Commissioners.

And as if that wasn't enough for a year's work, EU leaders concluded 2004 by agreeing to start accession negotiations with Turkey next year -- the most controversial candidate to joining the bloc to date. "

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