First enlargement talks under French presidency
On 5 October, the French presidency hosted, for the first time, negotiation talks between the 15 member states and the "Luxembourg Group" of six candidate countries—Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia—since they were invited to start negotiations in 1997.
Several chapters of EU law and policy were discussed in Brussels. With respect to Cyprus, these were free movement of capital and the environment. The Czech representatives were negotiating on company law, transport policy, social policy and employment. Estonia's greatest concerns were free movement of goods, transport policy, social policy and employment and customs union. Hungary was involved in negotiations on company law, taxation, energy and external relations. Poland discussed EU law and policy on fisheries, taxation and customs union; and Slovenia on free movement of goods, transport policy, taxation and the environment.
Since negotiations started in March 1998, all but one chapter has been opened and negotiations have been provisionally concluded on 11 to 16 out of 30 chapters. The one that remains to be opened is on EU institutions. In light of the need of institutional reform of the union before a "healthy" enlargement becomes possible, it has been decided that this last chapter will be dealt with after the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference in December of this year.
An average of 20 chapters is expected to be closed under the French presidency. Most of the remaining chapters are to be concluded under the Swedish presidency in the first half of 2001. In addition, Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen said it was possible to decide on 34 to 43 requests for transitional periods during France's mandate. There are 170 such requests at the moment.
In turn, members of the Luxembourg Group expect to conclude negotiations on accession by the end of 2001 and become EU members by 1 January 2003. Unsurprisingly enough, the EU is not willing to set any target dates until a clearer way of measuring candidates' progress is implemented. So far, country scoreboards are seen as the most plausible option.
Negotiations with the second wave of candidate states, the "Helsinki Group" (Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia), are expected by the end of this month. Negotiations with both groups on a ministerial level are to take place in December. France has also foreseen meetings with the candidates' foreign ministers in November and with head of state in December.
The annual "state of enlargement" debate was launched on 3 October in Strasbourg. Member states, as well as EU institutions, indicated their commitment to the enlargement process.
A general enlargement report was discussed along with 12 country reports and resolutions. The latter focused on the negotiable aspects of candidate countries for entry into the EU. The reports and resolutions were adopted by the European Parliament on 4 October.
Commission President Romano Prodi and Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen both gave speeches, which reaffirmed their support for the enlargement process. An undercurrent of both statements was the pressing need for institutional reform of the EU before accession of candidate states can be completed: "Our two major challenges—internal reform and opening up to others—are closely bound up with each other. ...they have to be tackled in conjunction if we are to succeed," Verheugen pointed out. He also stressed that enlargement was "the only adequate response" to the historical changes occurring over the past decade.
Romano Prodi's speech ran along similar lines, but he placed a greater emphasis on debates surrounding the institutional reform of the Union, rather than the significance of its enlargement. In response to recent proposals from member states, he stressed that a community model for change was the preferred institutional framework for the EU.
He discarded the intergovernmental model as one that could lead to increased bureaucratic inefficiency, fragmentation and loss of enforcement capabilities. "To claim, as some do, that the individual legitimacy of the participating governments somehow provides, on its own, a sufficient guarantee of democratic accountability for the intergovernmental model is misguided," he said, in addition to his previous criticisms.
French Deputy Minister for European Affairs Pierre Moscovici also spoke in favour of the enlargement process. He expressed the commitment of France and the current French presidency to swift and efficient accession of candidate countries.
Blair urges a second chamber for EU
Partly as a response to the opening of the debates on enlargement and institutional change of the EU, Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, made an attempt to reclaim the role of member states within the EU.
On 5 October, he delivered a speech in Warsaw on the future of Europe, which was part of the current debate within the EU and its member states on the forthcoming reform of the Union. Blair openly opposed further European integration and proposed a second chamber for the European Union. This new chamber would be comprised of direct representatives of member states' national parliaments. Thus, it was argued, the role and involvement of the nation states would be re-asserted on a European regional level.
Blair's speech followed similar proposals from Germany and the Czech Republic. In this way Britain's prime minister hoped to set out a plan for the future of Europe which would invoke more positive attitudes from his domestic audience, especially in light of the upcoming elections in May and, at the same time, influence the thinking of fellow member states' leaders.
Lastly, Blair made a strong call for the EU to expand Eastwards as soon as possible. Enlargement, he argued, would represent a victory of the European values of solidarity.
Declaration to the Serbian people
The precise wording of the declaration of the President of the European Parliament on behalf of the European Parliament to the Serb people is as follows:
The Serbian people has seized its destiny. The European Parliament wishes to express its total solidarity at this historic moment when tyranny is beginning to crumble and democracy triumph. The millions of Serbs now taking to the streets deserve our admiration for their political courage. Let us hope that all the forces of law and order will join with them. The European Union and the European parliament in particular will do their utmost to help restore the democratic process. To this effect, we urge that the sanctions should be lifted and that the Union prepare measures to demonstrate its solidarity with a free Yugoslavia.
Ivana Gogova, 6 October 2000
Also of interest:
- Time Regained,
Oliver Craske on Tony Blair's Warsaw speech
- Prime Minister's Speech to the Polish Stock Exchange
The text to Tony Blair's Warsaw speech in full
- Archive of EU news reviews
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