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Enlargement Policy revision

| March 14, 2015

Enlargement is one of the EU’s most successful policies which has promoted peace and stability throughout Europe. Starting with 6 members over 50 years ago, the European Union has grown to a population of almost a half a billion people comprising of 27 member states (Phinnemore 2010). The union is poised to expand as further negotiations are underway with Turkey and Croatia as prospective members (Phinnemore 2010). Recent debates about the deepening and widening of enlargement have however become highly politicized and it is widely argued that further enlargement will be difficult.
The union is seen as having altered its dimensions and faced with new challenges, especially with the 2004 and 2007 enlargements. This raises a fundamental question. Has the 2004 and 2007 enlargements of the EU been successful or have they created insurmountable problems to the EU as a whole? This analysis is an attempt to untangle this knotty question by presenting a critical analysis of EU’s enlargement.
The foundations of the EU can be traced back to the 1957 European Economic Community (EEC) treaty which six member states signed (Seldemier 2003). In 1992, the EEC transformed into the EU with the signing of the Maastricht Agreement which was later put into force in 1993 (Seldemier 2003). The success of the EEC became an attraction that paved way for enlargement in the continent. Since inception, the EU has enlarged several times. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 completed the fifth round enlargement of the EU hence increasing the member states from 15 to 27 (Seldemier 2003).
The process of enlargement hinges on a series of requirements known as the Copenhagen criteria which prospective members must satisfy before their accession is accepted. The Copenhagen criteria are based on the principles of liberty, democracy, and rule of law as well as the respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights (Sjursen et al., 2004).
“A screening report” is established by the commission for each chapter and country as a basis for launching the actual technical process of negotiation (CEC 2007). The reports are then submitted to the council. A negotiation position is then submitted by the candidate country.
The Council and the European parliament are updated and duly informed by the Commission about the progress of the candidate countries through individual country progress reports and annual strategy papers (CEC 2007). The commission also monitors whether the benchmark requirements have been fulfilled.
The results are then incorporated into a draft Accession Treaty upon completion of negotiations on all chapters to the satisfaction of both sides. Upon winning the support of the Council, the Commission and the European parliament, the treaty is signed and ratified by the candidate country and all EU member states (CEC 2007).
Once the treaty is signed, as an “acceding state”, the candidate country is entitled to certain provisional privileges until it becomes a member state of the EU (CEC 2007). The treaty becomes enforced on its scheduled date and the candidate country (acceding state) becomes a member state (CEC 2007).
The success of the EU can be analyzed in terms of the political dimension peace, security, democracy, human rights as well as from the economic picture.
The 2004 enlargement of the EU has been an economic success to the new and established member states.
The accession has modernized the economies of the EU -10 by opening up opportunities for business and bringing about greater macroeconomic stability. Because the NMS represent only 5% of the total gross domestic product of the EU, the impact of these enlargements are necessarily greater for the EU-10 in comparison with the EU-15 (Murphy 2006). Specifically, the economies of the NMS grew at an average annual rate of 3.75% between 1997 and 2005 as opposed to a 2.5% annual average growth rate for the EU-15 (Murphy 2006). Further, the income of these new member states, whilst still below that of the established member states, has put on a spurt, rising from 44% in 1997 to 50% in 2005 (Schreiner 2008).
Additionally, the enlargement has benefited the economies of the E -15 as it has enabled them access to new growth markets, especially in the banking sector. The investment of Nordic banks in Baltic States and Austrian banks in Central and Easter Europe confirms this trend of increasing economic integration (Schreiner 2008).
There is also evidence of a growing FDI flows into the NMS, a gradually strengthening employment picture, an expanding trade between the old and new member states (NMS) and declining trade deficits in the NMS (Bureau of European Policy Advisors 2006). For instance, in 2004 FDI in the new member states exceeded EUR 190 billion, most of which was financed by the EU- 15 (Schreiner 2008). In this regard, Germany remains the leading investor in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, while the lead investors in Baltic States are the Nordic countries (Schreiner 2008).
There has also been a significant progress to the agricultural sector of all member states as result of the enlargements. This has facilitated trade within the EU and promoted agricultural modernization in the new member states. Due to the contribution made by the EU-10 countries, agriculture in Europe has grown in terms of the area, production and the labour force (Phinnemore 2010). Fears regarding potential negative effects to this sector have proved to be unfounded (Phinnemore 2010). Nevertheless, productivity within EU-10 remains distinctly lower than that of the old member states.
Despite these economic positives, it should be noted that impacts of the enlargement since May 2004 have been short. It will take quite a long time before the long-term effects of these enlargements can be felt. While it is easy to point to the increasing trade and financial flows between the E-10 and E-15, these increases would likely to have occurred even without the 2004 EU enlargement. Further, the performance of the NMS has certainly improved but the gap between the economies of the EU-10 and EU-15 remains substantial. While there has been a rise on average incomes in the NMS since 1997, the gap only closed by 6% points between 1997 and 2005 (Murphy 2006). Surely, at this rate, it will take decades before something close to parity can be achieved.
The enlargement has also brought with it socio-economic pressures due to increased inward labour migration (Budnik 2007). The diverse post-enlargement migration flows of the labour force are an important policy issue. The large numbers of migrants exert social and economic pressures since a significant proportion of them remain unemployed (Budnik 2007). Further, with new member states joining the EU, there has been an extra budgetary cost for financing programmes of the EU. Since most of the E-10 countries are relatively poor in terms of real GDP per capita, it has led to the EU increasing their share of spending on cohesion funds that are targeted to these relatively poor regions (Anon 2006).
It is however important to note that the budget has been affected only to a limited extent. While the contribution of the new members to the European budget remains distinctly below the amounts that they receive in terms of aid, the old member states contributions to improving the welfare of the new members represents only 0.1% of their GDP (Phinnemore 2010). Hence, the budget effect is limited. Nonetheless, the early signs are an indication of a positive macro-economic impact of the enlargement.
There is also the social and political impact of these enlargements. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, EU is seen by a significant majority of the Europeans as an engine of peace and stability; and that the West has an obligation to help their counterparts in the East (European Commission, 2006). Fears are however rising even among the supporters of the integration, that the enlargement has made the union increasingly unwieldy and bureaucratic (Rhein, 2006). Concerns have also been raised about the opening of the floodgates to additional entrants. These are seen as contributing to “democratic deficit” in Europe (Rhein 2006).
The single and the greatest political impact of the 2004 enlargement is arguably the defeat of the proposed EU constitution. Certainly, there is no universal agreement that the 2004 enlargement culminated into the defeat of the proposed constitution in 2005. The French and Dutch “no” votes were viewed by some as a rejection of the creeping neo-liberal economic reforms (Murphy 2006). Yet there is much that suggests that the 2004 enlargement played a central role in the vote’s outcome. Most of the frequently cited reasons for voting against the constitution were the bureaucratization of the EU and heightened concerns over the loss of local and national autonomy, both of which were directly tied to the 2004 accession of the E-10 countries (Murphy 2006).
Of course, it is possible that the constitution might as well have had difficulties with or without the enlargement. With more than 300 pages of dense text, the Constitution failed to dispel any concerns about bureaucratization (Murphy 2006). Further, its call for a full-time president of the European council and a single EU foreign minister were not universally popular (Murphy 2006). However, coming at a time when the impacts of enlargement were already worrying the voters, concerns over bureaucratization were heightened (Murphy 2006).

Furthermore, the provision for elimination of single-country vetoes on basic legislation, coming at a time of growing concern about the impact of enlargement on the local and national autonomy, arguably led many to view the constitution as a step towards surrendering national identity (Murphy 2006). Certainly, when an enlargement arises that potentially challenges the local and national autonomy, it is not surprising to find a vast majority of the population opposing the constitution as it is seen as enhancing the shift in power away from the individual states.
This however doesn’t necessarily mean that the enlargement was a mistake. In fact, according to the 2006 Eurobaromater poll, about 45% of the population in Europe were generally supportive of this enlargement as opposed to 42% that were against it (European Commision 2006: p.3). Among the positives of this enlargement is that it has helped in consolidating democracy, stability and peace throughout the Europe continent
The addition of the NMS into the EU have allowed for improved security by expanding the boundaries of the EU’s zone of peace, stability and prosperity throughout Europe (Thomassen 2008). EU standards on border control have been adopted by these New Member States. Contrary to the fears raised before the 2004 accession, the crime rates have significantly decreased as evident in the period between 2003 and 2006 which saw a 4% decrease in the total crime rates (Thomassen 2008).
Certainly, the enlargement has contributed to establishing peace and stability and in overcoming the division of Europe. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania completed the 5th round of EU enlargement, a process that brought together ten former Eastern Bloc nations and former Soviet Republics including the island nations of Malta and Cyprus, hence reuniting Eastern and Western Europe after decades of division (Schmitt & Thomassen 2008). These former communist nations with state-run economies and totalitarian regimes have undergone a tremendous amount of political and economic changes since the EU accession (Phinnemore 2010). Today, Romania and Bulgaria are functioning democracies with stable institutions which guarantee the respect of fundamental human rights and the rule of law (Phinnemore 2010).
The breadth of negatives associated with these most recent enlargements not only signifies concerns about EU’s current configuration; but also suggests that further enlargements may become increasingly problematic. While the 2004 and 2007 EU enlargements have had many positive dimensions including increased economic integration and the consolidation of security, peace and stability throughout Europe among others, these however must be viewed alongside unprecedented challenges to the European integration. Chief among these is the idea that state nationalism will recede in the face of further enlargement of the union. Nonetheless, the early signs of positives are an indication of success of these most recent enlargements.
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