Table of Contents
1 - INTRODUCTION
2 - ACCESSION CRITERIA AND FACTS ABOUT THE CEECS
3 - WHY THE CEECS SHOULD JOIN THE EU ALL AT ONCE
3.1 ECONOMIC ASPECTS
3.2 POLITICAL ASPECTS
4 - WHY THE CEECS SHOULD JOIN THE EU IN STAGES
4.1 ECONOMIC ASPECTS
4.2 POLITICAL ASPECTS
5 - CONCLUSIONS
6 - BIBLIOGRAPHY
1 - I NTRODUCTION
The question whether the central and east European states should join the European Union in stages or all at once has been discussed by politicians, the media and interest groups for more than ten years. In fact, the possibility of further enlargement beyond the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) group has been on the EU’s agenda since the early 1990s.1 My goal is to point out which advantages and disadvantages are likely to occur in either scenario, due to the fact that this topic can be interpreted for economic, political, social, cultural and many more reasons, I will mainly focus on political and economic issues concerning the enlargement of the EU.
At present, the European Union consists of 15 member states, the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) that are likely to join the EU in the fifth and possibly sixth wave of enlargement within the next decade being the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia plus Bulgaria and Romania.2 Although it is argued that the socio-economic gap between those prospective EU members and the states that joined in the fourth wave of enlargement (Ireland, Greece and Spain) is bigger and likely to be more complicated, the EU explicitly recognised enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe as a goal in 1993.3 Accession negotiations with those twelve states have been under way since 1998, with the first new members expected to be admitted in late 2004.4
2 - A CCESSION CRITERIA AND FACTS ABOUT THE CEECS
The EU has already enlarged four times. As the most recent round of negotiations demonstrated, the procedures are well established. Following the submission of an application by the candidate country, the Commission, at the request of the Council, prepares an opinion on the ability and willingness of the prospective member to take over the aquis communautaire5 and, more generally, to enter into the life of the European ‘club’ without causing undue trouble or complications.6 The political conditions for membership were explicitly laid down at the Copenhagen Council in 1993, the communiqué stated that accession will take place as soon as an associated country is ready to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required. Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union, plus adherence to the goal of monetary union.7
There are significant differences between the CEECs when it comes to the fulfilment of the accession criteria. For example, Poland, often regarded as the most advanced prospective member state, nearly jeopardized their chances of joining the EU in 2004 over a debate on further subsidising local coal mines8, whereas Slovakia, among others, is still having problems opening up its economy9, and Romania is still having numerous price controls and a non- transparent trade regime10. Also, the levels of GDP, among other cultural, political and economic characteristics, vary greatly among the CEECs, ranging from 5.900€ per capita in Romania to 18.500€ in Cyprus11, which adds to the fact that diversity is the hallmark of Central and Eastern Europe12. All applicant countries have in common that they have a difficult task, they must defend the interests of their own countries from sometimes uninterested or even uninformed critics and hostile vested interests, while continuing to pursue responsible policies and evolve in the direction of the EU.
3 - WHY THE CEECS SHOULD JOIN THE EU ALL AT ONCE
In this chapter I will outline the arguments for letting the CEECs join the European Union all at once, taking into account both economic and political arguments.
3.1 ECONOMIC ASPECTS
The most commonly cited reason why the Central and East European Countries should join the European Union all at once is that the costs of not enlarging, or enlarging only slowly are likely to be higher ‘for all [member states] concerned’13 (because the growth of the developing economies would be held back, pressure to emigrate westwards would be intensified, and political tensions would rise). Furthermore it is argued that if they joined the EU all at once, the economic benefits of enlargement could well outweigh the costs and strengthen Europe’s position in the world economy. That is because the enlargement would promote the economic interests by
giving firms a head-start on developing business ties in a rapidly growing market.14 Also, in the medium term, enlargement would unify the EFTAns’ trade policy towards that of the CEECs and thus multiply their leverage of EU trade policies during accession talks.15 Another advantage of having all CEECs join the European Union at once would be that the same chance for economic development would be given to all the countries. Considered that, for example, Hungary joined the EU prior to Romania, this would almost certainly imply that future foreign investment would shift from Romania to Hungary, widening the economic gap between the two neighbour- and rival-states. Those states that join the EU first will benefit from full access to the single market and to substantial transfers from the EU’s structural funds, far exceeding what is delivered in the various EU assistance programmes for non-members.16 In other words, not letting them join all at once could further accelerate the divergence in economic performance between states of the region.
3.2 POLITICAL ASPECTS
The most commonly cited political reason why the CEECs should join the EU all at once is that it would strengthen and unite Europe. Several political issues could be dealt with on a basis of having states with an equal political standing.
One of the most often used arguments that politicians refer to is that the problem with the voting procedures could be addressed all at once. At the moment, there is already a marked bias towards small states affecting voting behaviour in the Council of Ministers using the qualified majority voting (QMV) system.17 Questions that have to be dealt with include: How should the nominations of Commissioners take place in an enlarged Europe? Should every member state appoint a member to the European Court of Justice?18 If the CEECs joined the EU all at once, these problems could be solved relatively quickly, without renegotiating the number of votes in a possible further wave of enlargement. Baldwin pointed out that on current voting rules the present ‘poor four’ (Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain) might veto enlargement if it threatened their present budget receipts.19 Those states (and the member states which might join in the first wave) would not have to find a consensus again, which would be an advantage, because the procedures to find a consensus usually take relatively long.
1 Preston, C., (1995) Obstacles to EU Enlargement: The Classical Community Method and the Prospects for a Wider Europe, Journal of Common Market Studies Vol. 33, No. 3, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, p.7
2 Curzon Price, V./Landau, A., (1999) The enlargement of the European Union: dealing with complexity in Curzon Price, V. (et al.) The Enlargement of the European Union, London: Routledge, p. 10
3 Amato, G./Batt, J., (1999) The long-term implications of EU enlargement: The nature of the new border, San Domenico di Fiesole: European University Institute, Florence, p. 29
4 Batt, J., (2001) Defining Central and Eastern Europe, p. 10
5 The term aquis communautaire means full acceptance of the actual and potential rights and obligations attaching to the Community system and its institutional framework (Preston (1995), p.2).
6 Ludlow, P. (et al.), (1996) Preparing for Membership- The Eastward and Southern Enlargement of the EU, Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies, p. 25
7 Preston (1995), p. 8
8 Didzoleit, W. (et al.), (2002) Die alte Welt erschafft sich neu in Der Spiegel, Iss. 50/2002, p. 52
9 Centre for Research into Post-Communist Economies (publisher), (2000) A Delayed Homecoming: An Update on European Union Enlargement, London: CRCE, p. 8
10 Curzon Price, V., (1999) Reintegrating Europe in Curzon Price, V. (et al.) The Enlargement of the European Union, London: Routledge, p. 29
11 Didzoleit (2002), p. 57
12 Batt (2001), p.1
13 Amato/Batt (1999), p. 46
14 Baldwin, R., (1992) An Eastern Enlargement of EFTA: Why the Eastern European should join and the EFTAns should want them, London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, p. 2
15 Ebd., p. v-vi
16 Batt (2001), p. 11
17 Preston (1995), p. 11
18 Aggestam, L., (1999) The European Union at the crossroads in Curzon Price, V. (et al.) The Enlargement of the European Union, London: Routledge, p. 95
19 Baldwin, R., (1994) Towards an Integrated Europe, London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, p. 188