Environment and transport projects approved
On 27 October, the management committee of the European Commission's Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) approved 27 environment and ten transport projects for the Central and Eastern European candidate states (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia).
Along with the PHARE Programme, which focuses on institution building and investment support, and SAPRAD (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development), ISPA is one of the major EU donor agencies offering financial
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With an annual budget of EUR 1.4 billion for the 2000-2006 period, it supports infrastructure projects in the environment and transport spheres. Out of the total value of the 37 projects now approved (EUR 862.46 million), ISPA has committed EUR 484.46 million to be spent throughout this and next year.
Governments of the beneficiary countries, as well as the European Investment Bank (Luxembourg) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (London) are co-financing the projects. The latter two banks have also participated in the development of the proposed projects.
The environmental projects in the ten countries of Central and Eastern Europe are mainly concerned with waste management and with rehabilitation of sewage and water systems. The transport projects in turn vary from modernisation of telecommunications in Lithuania to upgrading rail and/or road networks in most places.
In order for the beneficiary countries to start implementation of their respective projects, an official approval on behalf of the Commission is needed. This announcement is expected by Michael Barnier, the Commissioner in charge of regional policy, in the next few weeks.
The Commission has already expressed its intention to equal the number of environmental projects to that of transport projects by the end of the year.
EIB: enlargement could damage euro
At a conference on Eastern Europe in Bologna, Italy, last weekend, the European Investment Bank (EIB) warned that accession of new members could further destabilise the common currency. ”As an economic bloc, they (Eastern European candidates) are not big enough to generate a request for euros on the market and thereby strengthen the currency. And the inflationary impact of these countries when they enter Europe will not help the euro,” said Massimo Ponzelini, vice-president of the European Investment Bank.
In this way, current anxieties about the common currency were further exacerbated through reference to future developments in the EU. At the same time, the implications for candidate states could be stricter economic criteria and a slower accession process should the EIB’s opinion gain wider influence.
Meanwhile, two senior academics in Germany are preparing a constitutional challenge opposing the launch of euro cash. This is based precisely on the lack of stability of the common currency.
According to Wilhelm Hankel, economics professor at Frankfurt University, a constitutional court ruling in 1993 stated the currency should be stable in order to be launched.
Turkey – EU relations revisited
After the end of the ”Helsinki euphoria” Turkey-EU relations have been cast in an increasingly problematic light. Recently, their relationship has been examined in greater detail to better elucidate any problems in advance of the upcoming progress report. As Radio Free Europe has pointed out, despite the pending need for deeper reforms in Turkey, the Commission report is very likely to sound an encouraging note.
Criminalizing the incitement of hatred
Earlier last week, the attention was drawn to Article 321 of Turkey’s penal code which infringed upon the freedom of speech. The article criminalizes ”inciting hatred by showing differences of class, race, religion, creed or region.” What is deemed highly problematic is not the anti-discriminatory intention of the article, but the inconsistencies and vagueness of its interpretation and application.
Thus, according to Heidi Wedel of Amnesty International, Article 321 is used to jail people who express views on potentially explosive topics such as the Kurdish separatism and the role of Islam in society. What the EU has implicitly demanded was not the abolition of the article, but rather, its reform. It was proposed that imprisonment could be substituted with heavy fines.
The reform of Article 321 together with other human rights issues will remain one of the main issues that will have to be resolved before membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU can be launched. It has also been argued that the recent worsening of relations with neighbouring country and EU member Greece is going to be reflected in the Commission’s progress report this week.
Good relationships between accession states
Moreover, the EU has long made explicit the desirability of good neighbour relations of its accession states. Another problematic aspect of Turkey-EU relations can be seen with regards to the Union’s common security policy. There has been dispute over the EU’s future rapid reaction military force. Turkey wanted to participate in the decision-making process pertaining to this rapid reaction force, while the EU was very hesitant in this regard. In turn, as a NATO member, it has been argued that Turkey blocked EU – NATO cooperation.
Overall, three main factors account for the ambivalent nature of the relations between the EU and Turkey. Firstly, the strategic geopolitical and economic position of Turkey for Europe has been acknowledged by both sides and is thus of key importance to the effort put in the negotiation and accession processes. Secondly, it has been argued that Turkey has some obvious misperceptions about the EU and its agenda.
This is instrumental to understanding the way Turkey is to carry out its political and social reforms. Lastly, lack of clarity in EU policy towards Turkey adds up considerably to the discrepancies between each side’s perceptions of and attitudes towards the other. Hence, it currently seems impossible to overcome the gap between expectations and reality in EU – Turkey relations.
Ivana Gogova, 3 November 2000
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