The "2000 Regular Reports from the Commission on the Progress towards Accession" do not seem to be exactly taking centre stage in the German public conscience. The pending outcome of the US Presidential elections was attracting much more attention.
On the very 8 November, the federal and regional ministers responsible for European affairs, held a regular meeting in Wismar (capital of the Land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern). They discussed generally the issues of enlargement and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
There seems to be agreement—as far as it can be taken from statements over the recent months—among the ministers and the political leadership in general that enlargement is in the vital interest of Germany and that, provided the applicants' adaptation process has reached a critical minimum, this strategic interest makes a rather large group of new members preferable.
Within this scheme, a "core" comprising at least Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary and possibly Slovakia, is desired by Germany. The Baltic states, too, have recived German support, although here a pretty clear distinction is made between backing accession to the EU on the one hand and NATO membership on the other. Notably, Estonia is unhappy with this "split vote"; but Germany—at least under the present government—will be, for some time to come, against another extension of the Atlantic Alliance.
That a "bloc entry" would be advantageous is also the repeatedly stated opinion of Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen. Although in legal terms not a German voice but that of the Commission, Verheugen's views are clearly shaped by the very same look at the map. Presently, this would mean taking in the ten "best" countries simultaneously, leaving out Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.
The media view
The German press has, on the whole, taken a favourable stance vis-à-vis the Progress Reports. The leading dailies acknowledge the Commission's effort to provide a viable strategy for what should be the final stage of accession negotiations. This approach is most clearly evident in the "roadmaps" that will be binding for both sides and appear to be the best that the Commission was able to come up with in the face of fierce member state resistance to any announcement of entry dates at this stage.
However, while the press are ready to concede to the member states that it is indeed difficult to lay down such dates while so many chapters in the
By coincidence, it was on 8 November that Federal Finance Minister Hans Eichel received a green light from Competition Commissioner Mario Monti to grant more national structural help to the border regions of the East German Länder. According to Eichel, this support was needed to back the border regions up against "growing Polish and Czech competition." Now, this should certainly be read as a most positive assessment of the progress made by these neighbouring countries.
Jens Boysen, 9 November 2000
Also of interest:
- The 2000 Progress Reports in full
- CER update on accession candidates, May 2000
- CER commentary on the 1999 Progress Reports
- The 1999 Progress Reports in full
- Archived CER articles on EU affairs
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central and Eastern Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page