Evaluate the likely changes to the structure of the principle EU institutions due to enlargement"
HNC Social Science
“Evaluate the likely changes to the structure of the principle EU institutions due to enlargement”
The Treaty of Nice was adopted by the European Council in order to adjust the two founding treaties of the European Union, the Maastricht treaty, which introduced the three pillar structure setting the European Union and the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community. The treaty’s main purpose was to try and fix the institutional problems, resulting from enlargement, this was supposed to be addressed at the Amsterdam Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC), but the Treaty of Amsterdam did not solve the Enlargement difficulties. The treaty allowed the European Parliament to increase the amount of seats, as the Amsterdam treaty only allowed 732 and due to enlargement more were required. Also due to Enlargement the number of Commissioners in countries, were being reduced as they had to be spread out in order to cover all countries, this was another part of the Nice Treaty.
However the treaty of Nice was considered inadequate as id failed to deal with the problem of Enlargement, this lead to the development of the European Convention, which led to a new Inter-Governmental Conference in 2004. The commission and the European Parliament were disappointed by the IGC and did not take on many of the proposals. The European Parliament was against the Treaty and therefore many member states did not offer their support, the Italian Parliament said they would not “ratify” without the Parliaments support, however in the end the treaty was passed by the Parliament.
At the development of the European Union in 1952 it only had 6 member states, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. It was always a likelihood that membership would grow and it did, today there are twenty-five member states, enlargement is an important part of the European union as there are two characteristics that make the European Union unique. One is that it has an open membership and second that it has a continuously changing border, these would show that the European Union is in fact “an experiment in motion” as it is unusual that states hold an enlargement clause in their constitution. Enlargement is held in the EU treaties and therefore is welcomed by the EU. The Amsterdam treaty for example clearly welcomes others to join and also leaves the future borders or the EU unspecified.
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The first enlargement occurred in 1973 when Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined, by 1995 an additional 6 countries had joined the original 6 taking the EU member countries to 15. The enlargement in 2004 was the largest to date with another 10 countries joining bringing the total up to 25 member states. Another two countries, Romania and Bulgaria are to join in 2007 taking the EU up to its highest yet 27 member states. Although the membership is climbing there are different reasons as to why they join it was not under one cause, as some chose to join due to economical issues whereas others may have been more politically guided.
Enlargement then is a key part of the European Union, enlargement is the term simply used when referring to a new state joining the EU. The EU had to adapt, policies, practice and institutions when a new state joins the EU. Any accession round could change the EU in up to 3 ways. A new comer would affect the EU’s institutions as the Parliament and Council would have to adapt to represent them. Secondly policies may be affected as they would need to accommodate the new comer’s interests. And thirdly the EU’s borders would be subjected to change. This means that every time a new state joins, the EU will gain new neighbouring countries. For example when Spain, Portugal and Greece joined the EU became increasingly active in the Mediterranean.
Due to enlargement the Commission will have to adapt to accommodate new members it will have to take on board the new countries views yet balance this with present member states. The commission will have to observe the new countries on the grounds of the treaties also the commission works to benefit all the member states so new member states will have to be contacted making their job more time consuming.
The council of ministers will have to make these changes too in order of proper representation of the new countries. The council will have to observe these additional members in all areas including foreign security and home affairs.
The European court will also have to take on these changes and will have to ensure that all new countries respect their rule of law. However out of all the institutions the European Parliament will be most affected, beliefs and common values will have to be taken into account by the parliament. The legislative process itself will undergo a series of changes as new countries opinions will be brought forward thus making the process longer. Also the new countries will need funds and these financial needs will dramatically change the allocation of fund in order to accommodate these needs.
Due to these changes, enlargement negotiations are usually lengthy and often dramatic. Finland, for example, applied to become a member state on the 18th march 1992 and did not gain membership until 1st January 1995, 2 years and 8 months after their application. However, Finland was one of the shorter waiting times as some of the longer periods go up to 8 years, as in the case of Portugal who waited a period of 8 years and 9 months.
For a member state to be accepted they all go through a 7 step system. Firstly the most obvious of the steps is that they have to send their application to the EU council. The council at this stage merely act as a mail box as they receive applications and then send them to the commission. The commission then prepares an opinion and then it goes back to the council where they must come to a unanimous decision in order to start accession negotiations. The presidency then negotiates at the basis of a common position which is worked out by commission and council. The sixth step is that the final result of negotiations is approved by parliament, commission and member states. Finally the seventh stage is that all member states make an agreement with relations to their constitutional requirements, the applicant will at this stage be accepted or declined.
In 1984 the PHARE programme was created to provide support financially to accession countries so that they can expand and meet the accession criteria, later to be named the Copenhagen criteria. The county must have stable institutions, the rule of law, human rights and the ability to hand any responsibilities and requirements that the EU puts to them.
One argument against enlargement is the cost, how much would enlargement cost and which state would have to pay out the largest sum. However, member states came to the conclusion that the EU was the tool to be able to stabilise central and Eastern Europe, rather than bring in instability, such as crime and immigration. The changes that have been brought forward due to enlargement will change the future shape and identity of the EU. The main purpose of enlargement is to create stability throughout Europe. By new countries joining the EU more countries are becoming stable but, it also shifts borders of the EU which could bring them closer to unstable countries which might just cause more stability problems.
The EU has opened up more in recent years and has tried to bring stability to more Eastern and Central Europe as in June 1993 in Copenhagen; they offered all central and eastern states the chance to gain membership. In 1997 the EU opened up membership for those who seemed “ready”: Cyprus, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland and Slovenia. Other countries that had failed to meet criteria were told to “deepen their reform efforts” before they could join. Before any state can join they now need to meet the Copenhagen criteria which requires states to have respect for democratic governance, the rule of law, human rights and minority rights. Enlargement does come with a number of advantages for one it has ensured that Europe stays free from armed conflict and that it responds effectively to threats from non-member states. EU membership also promotes economic reform and growth as the single market expands providing them with new markets, forcing prices down and giving European consumers an increasing choice. Due to Enlargement trade and investment opportunities are ever increasing for example since 1992 UK merchandise trade with the new member states has increased by 392%. It also means that issues such as border controls and other fights again organised crime can be monitored in more depth as all EU countries must meet standards on border controls, police, customs and judicial proceedings before they are allowed to join. One of the most worrying aspects of enlargement for citizens of member countries is their fear of mass migration. But since 1994 Britain has held a positive experience with citizens from other member states filling out jobs that are in labour shortages and very few people are actually seeking benefits from the UK. There are a lot of positive aspects to the Enlargement of the EU but there are however some disadvantages such as the added costs, the cost of public finances, increasing wages due to wage competition and the cost of labour market distribution.
This essay shows how enlargement affects the primary institutions of the EU and that enlargement requires all institutions to take on board new ideas and beliefs that the new member state holds. Enlargement advantages and disadvantages on member states have also been evaluated, showing that enlargement has a beneficial role in all countries.
The European Union: How does it work?, Bomberg and Stubb, Oxford University Press, 2004
Class notes, HNC Social Science, Class: EU Institutions, James Watt College 2006