The move towards the impending enlargement began to gather pace following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, along with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The newly autonomous states wasted no time in portraying to the EU their aspirations to join Europe's elite in the union. When one considers how rapidly these major events transpired, it becomes clear that the EU handled the developments with remarkable speed and efficiency.
Enlargement means a great deal to the applicant countries, they envisage it to be part of their triumphant return to democracy after a gruelling forty years in the dark. The opportunity to join the thriving community of Western European states is a dream come true for the CEEC's who have suffered much, and they are united in their belief that they deserve the chance to prosper. The president of the Czech Republic heralded the developments as the 'return to Europe', this is indicative of the excitement generated by the current proceedings.
Although it was stated in the treaty of the European Union in 1992 that "Any European state may apply to become a member of the union", the first formal agreement that in principle the CEEC's could join the EU was made at the Copenhagen European Council in June 1993. It was also at this summit that the criteria required for accession to take place were finalised and made known to the applicant countries. To meet these requirements, many political, economic and cultural changes would have to be implemented.
The countries that wish to apply to European Union membership must satisfy the criteria of Copenhagen: a democratic system of government respecting the human rights and the rights of the minorities.
They also must:
- be a European country (geographical, economic and cultural membership)
- to have an open market and competing economy
- to accept the Community legal asset, i.e. the whole of the principles, rules and objectives which melt the European Union.
Respect of Article 6 of the TEU is a very important factor.
Article 6 TEU :
1. The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of men and women.
The adoption of these criteria poses significant questions for the CEEC's, they far outweigh those faced by the countries of the four previous enlargements.
The EU can already look back on a history of successful enlargements. The Treaties of Paris (1951), establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and Rome (1957), establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and EURATOM, were signed by six founding members: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The EU then underwent four successive enlargements:
However, at this moment in time and for the future enlargements, further problems will be faced. Not only will it have been nine years since the last addition, the ‘acquis communautaire’ to be followed is reaching 100, 000 pages. This will make it very difficult for the CEE countries to adhere to, and has already resulted in the exclusion of the likes of Turkey. The Common Agricultural Policy is an example of one such area of the acquis that can't be adopted prior to accession. However, in order to aid the CEECs, help in adopting the acquis has been ongoing since the applications for membership were made. Accession partnerships have been drawn up between the EU and each candidate, detailing the short and medium term priorities for reform. These partnerships are subject to regular review and updating. The success of the candidate in implementing its partnership and other preparations is subject to an annual report by the commission.
Also, with regard to meeting the economic criteria for membership, it can be seen that on the basis of GDP per head of population, the CEEC's are at a low level of prosperity compared with the present member states' average. For example, Hungary has a GDP of approximately 51% of the EU average, while Poland's is approximately 37%. These are two of the 'Luxembourg' candidates as well; who represent the stronger economies amongst the candidates. When Ireland joined the EU in 1973, GDP was up to 60% of the average Member State and that was frowned upon by many at that time. The big question in this instance for the CEEC's is whether or not they can convince the EU that their economies can face up to the competitive pressures after entering the Union. They will be expected to do this without lengthy transition periods and without permanent derogation.
The financial questions that play on the minds of all parties concerned are numerous, such as, how can the enlargement to the East be financed without increasing EU spending beyond the currently planned limit of 1.27 per cent of the member states' GDP, and how are the present net recipients of structural funds to maintain their share under these conditions?
Another apprehension among the candidate countries is that membership will cause a 'brain-drain' on their national economies, resulting in their top business minds leaving for foreign opportunities with better working conditions and wage levels than those on offer domestically. With regard to agriculture, CEEC's are aware that the EU institutions don't look too kindly on the many small, peasant-farming which is very prevalent in the region. In fact agriculture in the CEEC's has been described as the 'sickest sector in all CEEC's They fear job losses resulting from the restructuring of the sector, due to the increased market competition and rural decline.
The rapid unification of West and East Germany is pertinent to recall here. The consequences of which were politically driven; it had devastating economic effects for industry and agriculture in the former German Democratic Republic. It created a high level of unemployment and, despite massive financial transfers from West to East Germany; little has changed with regard to the structural problems of the East. In fact, the net transfer from West to East Germany between 1990 and 1997 to the tune of approximately 500 million Euro now represents a huge burden also for the West German financial, fiscal and social system. Therefore, the question posed is whether a replication of said scenario would occur. Due to the free movement of workers, unemployment could result in the poorer countries and a political collaboration could have economically disastrous consequences.
The institutional reform debate creates questions for the CEEC's also. Presently, after the failure of the Amsterdam summit to enact institutional reform, it could be argued that the EU is also institutionally incapable of enlargement. At the same time, very few EU politicians have so far been able to convey the longer term and non-economic dimensions of the eastward enlargement with the necessary enthusiasm, to the Western European taxpayer, such as the vision of a Europe strengthened in the global competition. Perhaps they feel an enlarged EU will be a combination of countries at different levels of wealth and development, with the EU required to stabilise fragile and young democracies and to exhibit a certain moral duty to repair the consequences of the Cold War division of the continent. The integration of Spain and Portugal in the EU is also worth recalling. Despite clearly better economic premises in these two countries and especially in what was then the European Community, full integration took about 18 years including eight years of negotiations and up to ten years of transition.
A further potential problem would be associated with the current member states and the condition of the institutions. Already problems have started to unveil, considering that these institutions were designed for the ‘original six BENELUX’ member states, the European Court of Justice needed expansion with the addition of the CFI (Court of First Instance), also, the demand for the COREPER faculty and other additions to the institutions can only mean that when 15 becomes 25, further problems will indefinitely occur and an expansion will need to take place. The size of the commission, the weighting of votes in the council and the extension of qualified majority voting (QMV) are the topics of primary concern. Once the number of EU members' reaches twenty-five, a rotation system will have to be implemented, regarding reform in the commission and number of commissioners.
Reform of the Common Agriculture Policy is another economic factor that the EU must consider carefully. What type of access to this fund should the CEEC's be privy to? First of all, the CAP is in dire need of adjustment. This would be true even if there were no enlargement on the horizon. The commission proposes that new members should at the outset receive only 25% of the CAP aid given to existing members, and this discrepancy would be eroded in the next ten years. Obviously the candidate countries protest against this proposal, but it is just not feasible to expect the EU to pay all the small, peasant farmers in these countries the same as large, modernised EU farmers.
Finally, one must look at the effect said enlargement would have on the USA and the WTO (World Trade Organisation). After enlargement, Europe will not be the same to the outside world, but the changes will remain modest and affect foreign policy more than external economic relations and be focused on the EU’s post-communist “near abroad”. Because of their relative poverty, the new members will hardly affect the trade and investment relations of the EU with third countries. The EU`s share of world exports will increase from 18,4% to 19,3%. The EU`s share of world imports will increase from 18,2% to 20,2%. Candidate countries are small, open economies with trade deficits. The bulk of their foreign trade is already with the EU. Enlargement will not lead to a substantial trade creation and diversion as trade barriers have been abolished already during the decade of association. The attractiveness of the new members as locations of investment from third countries is affected in an ambiguous way by accession: on the one hand it might decline with the adoption of EU regulation; on the other hand, it might increase due to better infrastructure, and more secure access to the EU market. The new members will little add to the EU aid effort. It might focus the EU’s attention on East and Southeast Europe, and on some post-communist recipients like Vietnam or Laos. In foreign and security policy, the enlargement might strengthen the forces within the EU that favour a closer partnership with the USA in global affairs and a stronger military role for the EU abroad. Generally, the EU will be become more preoccupied with the management of its own affairs as its internal diversity increases at the same time as it levels its internal playing field (internal market, common currency, Convention).
To conclude, the enlargement facing the EU today poses a unique challenge, since it is without precedent in terms of scope and diversity: the number of candidates, the area (increase of 34%) and population (increase of 105 million), the wealth of different histories and cultures.
Third countries will significantly benefit from an enlarged Union. A single set of trade rules, a single tariff, and a single set of administrative procedures will apply not only just across the existing Member States but also across the Single Market of the enlarged Union. This will simplify dealings for third-country operators within Europe and improve conditions for investment and trade.
The addition of 10 member states is the largest amount to date and will certainly involve dealing with numerous issues, some of which have been mentioned above, however, further political and economical issues will be raised in due course and questions regarding Turkey will also be raised. Concerning said enlargement; it will have numerous benefits that will be further expressed after May 2004.
- Charlotte Bretherton and John Vogler – 1999 - The European Union as a Global Actor
- Cram, Dinan, Nugent – 1999 - 'Government and Politics of the European Union', 4th edition
- J. Redmond & G. Rosenthal - 'The expanding of the EU: past, present and future' - 1998
- European Movement, 'Trans-national dialogue on EU enlargement and institutional reform' - Reports and recommendations.