Wednesday 18 February 2009

Enlarge your Horizons

The Czechs are using the impending release of a Commission report on enlargement to push the benefits of enlargement. The report will be released on Friday and is supposed to detail how enlargement has strengthened the economies of both the new and old member states.

I've mixed feelings on this. The need for EU reform is pressing now, so with more members the EU will become less and less effective. Also, the countries closest to membership, Croatia and Turkey, face opposition from within the EU and still have progress to make on meeting the conditions for membership, so it's not as straight-forward as: enlargement is good, therefore we should push on with enlargement. Romania and Bulgaria were arguably not ready for membership, and it is a lot harder to put pressure for reform on them now that they are members (that said, some older members are in need of reform too...). It would also make keeping other candidate countries to the letter of the conditions harder in the future if any current candidate got a fast-track entry. Not that that's what's being suggested.

On the other hand, it would be good to open up more markets (by increasing the EU market size) and secure free trade. I'd like to see the report to see how much enlargement has added to the EU economy and how convincing the evidence is. I could see lots of conditions attached to the free movement of people, etc for any new member states that join over the next few years, though - if so many member states did it during the 2004 enlargement, then I can't see a more open approach any time soon. Would enlargement help at all in the current crisis? The 2004 member states attracted investment to grow; such investment is very scarce now.

Still, it's good to know that the Czech deputy prime minister has his enlargement priorities right:

""In general, Croatia is a country that belongs to the community - I go there almost every summer," he added. "It has a strategic value.""

1 comment:

  1. I am more or less on your lines. The larger the EU gets, the more it needs effective decision-making.

    But past history has shown that reforming the EU has stalled and become practically impossible under the present rules, when all the crucial decisions require unanimity.

    I have slowly come to the conclusion that the enlargement of the EU cannot be a process on auto-pilot, without any concern for what citizens think and feel.

    Thus, in my view further enlargemen should be halted until the EU has been profoundly reformed.

    The argument for free trade is important, but the European Economic Area could be extended to new members. It would be mutually beneficial without incapacitating the EU still more.