On 13 December 2002 Latvia officially concluded accession negotiations with the European Union at the European Council in Copenhagen, together with nine other EU candidate countries.
The negotiations involved two years' intensive work, as Latvia sought to obtain the best possible provisions for EU membership. Through the joint efforts of government and business representatives, very good overall results were achieved.
Latvia's Accession Treaty was signed in Athens on 16 April 2003. The ten EU candidate countries will have observer status in EU institutions from the signing of the Accession Treaty until the accession process is fully accomplished, i.e. after the new Treaty has been ratified by the 15 current and 10 new member states, in accordance with each country's constitutional requirements. It is expected that the ten candidate countries will accede to full EU membership on 1 May 2004.
At present, the Government is focusing its efforts on implementing Latvia-s pre-accession commitments. The Government allocated LVL 21 million (EUR 33.6 million) in the 2003 annual budget to finance measures related to EU integration.
In preparation for the referendum on Latvia's EU membership, which will take place on 20 September 2003, Prime Minister Mr Einars Repse established a Task Force on 16 January 2003 to organize a national campaign to disseminate information and promote public discussion on EU membership and coordinate collaboration between state institutions. The Task Force is led by Mrs Ramona Umblija, Head of the Humanities Department at the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music.
On 13 February 2003, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the establishment of a Public Advisory Council for the pre-referendum information campaign. The 29-member Council is chaired by Prime Minister Einars Repse. The Council includes representatives from a broad range of Latvia's regional, social, professional and ethnic groups, ensuring that the body will be influential in promoting public discussion. Mrs Zaneta Ozolina, Professor of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Latvia was appointed to head the Council.
The EU campaign officially began on May 5. It aims to provide objective information on Latvia's potential status as an EU member state in a manner that is simple, straightforward, and accessible to everyone.
Non-governmental organizations, the media and the European Union Information Centre are also taking an active part in the pre-referendum campaign.