Challenges of Enlargement hard to overcome
After the informal meeting held last week in in Nyköping, Sweden, it became obvious that the practicalities of Enlargement are to stir up more problems than expected.
To start with, this meeting proved yet another example of "horse trading" among EU members. This time, Spain threatened that it would not endorse transition periods for migrant workers from the accession states if Germany did not concede to preserving the status quo on structural aid (the largest recipient of which is currently Spain). At the same time, France was not too eager on reforms of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). Nevertheless, if both the structural policies and CAP remain the same, the EU would be bankrupt as soon as new members join.
On the other hand, the Spanish government expressed hopes that the issue of structural aid would be discussed at the Gothenburg Summit in June. It is also hoping to alter the present distribution mechanism in such a way that it remains one of the largest recipients of EU funds. According to diplomatic sources in Brussels, though, 12 of the 15 member states will reject Spain's proposal.
Meanwhile, a study on EU Enlargement conducted by Dresdner Bank proves most of the EU expectations already bust. Assuming that new members will be receiving the same structural, cohesion and agricultural payments from the EU funds, researchers have estimated the cost of enlargement by 2005 to be EUR 44 billion.
The EU, in turn, has foreseen only EUR 14.2 billion for enlargement in 2005 and EUR 16.7 billion in 2006. These provisions do not include full structural and agricultural support for the new members. However, negotiations on the budgetary provisions with the most advanced candidates are expected to close by the end of the year.
In addition, the study sees East-West economic migration as an advantage to the consolidation of the common market. The overall estimate of enlargement is that it will give the EU the unique opportunity to reform the CAP, which at the moment results in inefficient agricultural structures and recurring overproduction.
Overall, some foresee delays in the present pace of the enlargement process because of the lack of common position on some of the most sensitive structural issues within the union.
EU Centre-Left in support of Enlargement
Despite the fact that left-parteism is still a dirty word in most popular circles of post-Communist politics, candidate states have found some of their truest supporters in the ranks of EU Socialists.
At their annual congress in Berlin on 8 May, leaders of centre-left parties from the EU voiced their unanimous support for enlargement eastwards and the structural reforms associated with it.
Still, participants were divided over the pace of the process itself. German Finance Minister Hans Eichel, drawing from the experience of unified Germany, warned against a fast-paced accession of new members. If handled adequately, enlargement could only be a "win-win" situation, he argued.
On the other hand, enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen attacked the mentality regarding accession states as "freeloaders" and "tiresome petitioners." He also criticised governments of member states for raising "unbelievably narrow-minded" objections to enlargement. Lastly, he pointed that eastward expansion is the ultimate key to European stability and security.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was elected the European Socialist Party's new chairman. He outlined four priorities for the years ahead: enlargement, job creation, regional stability and combating racism and xenophobia.
Irish referendum to threaten Enlargement
Irish voters will be the first ones to decide the fate of the Nice Treaty in a referendum scheduled for 7 June. Ireland is the only EU member that has decided to ratify the treaty in a public vote. So far, it has been estimated that the Irish are likely to show little or no support for further European integration. That is why it is feared that, should this vote negate the Treaty of Nice, all the enlargement provisions outlined in it will suffer as well. Thus, accession of new members can be considerably delayed.
The rest of the EU members will submit the treaty for ratification in their parliaments. A rejection from them is, therefore, not anticipated.
Missile defence talks
A meeting on the hugely controversial issue of missile defence was held at NATO Headquarters on 8 May. The discussion was the first in a series to take place following President George W Bush's announcement the US is to go ahead with the US "Son of Star Wars" project on 1 May.
During the discussions, representatives of the US administration explained the basics of the missile defence and the manner in which it was being viewed by President Bush to NATO supreme decision-maker, the North Atlantic Council, and to General Secretary Lord Robertson.
It was reiterated by the US team that all NATO allies were being, and would continuously be, consulted on the matter&—an action provoked by the serious disagreement of some European governments and by the ambivalence of many others. It was also emphasised that the debate had to be considered within the context of threats of a new nature.
CEE applicants to NATO boosted
President Bush encouraged ten Central and Eastern European countries to continue their efforts in seeking NATO membership and added that "no part of Europe will be excluded because of history or geography."
He said in a letter to a conference in Slovakia which was attended by the prime ministers of the applicant countries that the expansion of NATO had already strengthened democracy in the region and that "these processes must continue."
NATO Economics Colloquium
The theme of the 2001 NATO Economic Colloquium, held on 2 to 4 May in the Romanian capital Bucharest, was The Interrelationship between Regional Economic Cooperation, Security and Stability. The main regions under discussion were Southeast Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia.
Speaking of the altered nature of security in the last decade and of the changed role of NATO in this context, the need for regional economic cooperation was constantly accentuated by the participants of 30 Euro-Atlantic Council countries.
The conference proceedings will be published shortly on the NATO web site.
Renewed NATO concern over violence in Macedonia
Caused by a new wave of violence on part of ethnic Albanian extremists, Lord Robertson visited Skopje on 7 May to meet with President Boris Trajkovski. The meetings were held together with the EU foreign policy "supremo" Javier Solana.
In an attempt to show the permanent concern of the international community, the Secretary General also met with Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta to discuss events in Macedonia. Lord Robertson made it clear that violence achieved nothing but damaging the Albanian reputation.
On 3 May, the Secretary General held talks with the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-office for the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ambassador Bob Frowick, with the intention to continue the coordination of the efforts of the two organisations.
Ivana Gogova and Branimira Radoslavova,
11 May 2001
NATO Official Homepage
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