Enlargement to damage EU cohesion
The Second Report on economic and social cohesion in the EU recommended restructuring of the current cohesion policies to deflect the impact of EU enlargement.
The Report was adopted by the European Commission (EC) on 31 January in accordance with Article 159 of the Treaty establishing the EC. The previous one, released in 1996, had a major effect on Agenda 2000. It is believed that this one will be of even greater importance for envisioning cohesion policies upon the enlargement of the Union.
Naturally, economic and social cohesion are underlying some of the very principles of the EU. Hence, the more than obvious fact that enlargement will increase the internal social and economic disparities has now come back not just as a future threat but as a present problem too.
Thus, for example, Commissioner for Regional Policy Michael Barnier sees the future of EU cohesion in the sophistication and wider application of regional policies. At the same time, Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, who oversees employment and social policy, brought to the fore a much older argument, namely that deepening should precede widening. In other words, one should make sure that the current cohesion policies are successfully implemented before going ahead with enlargement.
Overall, the Report claimed to open a new, more comprehensive debate on the policies for social and economic cohesion of the EU. Thus, its main message is that enlargement poses a real threat to cohesion and, somehow indirectly, to the very essence of the Union. The EC has scheduled a forum on cohesion for 21 and 22 May in Brussels.
Inflation to rise with enlargement
The Eurozone is facing higher inflation rates once candidates join, analysts reiterated this week. So far, the situation seems unavoidable.
After they become part of the EU, candidate countries will have to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) on their way to adopting the euro. In other words, upon becoming members, these countries will be faced with even stronger pressure to boost their economies; this time, however, they will not be able to gauge their exchange rates accordingly. The easiest options left are increases in public spending and tax cuts, as shown by Ireland for example. This in turn will inevitably lead to an increase in inflation rates, analysts argue.
For one thing, it is without doubt that the pressure for economic growth is ever-escalating for candidate states. On one hand, accession states can not opt out of the Eurozone, so they will have to meet the Maastricht criteria as soon as possible. On the other hand, the race to join the EU now is very likely to transform into a race to join the euro once the first accessions take place.
Meanwhile, growing inflation seems inevitable and not necessarily bad for future members. Unlike the mature economies of most Western states, those of the EU candidates are and will be experiencing fast-paced, often unstable growth, which will incur higher inflation. Moreover, in a situation where newly accessed members are part of ERM II, an increase in per capita income will be a sign of convergence to the rest of the Eurozone rather than one of troubling inflation.
NATO in the middle of a new Kosovan crisis
18 months after KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force entered Kosovo, a potential serious crisis is already evident with the mounting of clashes between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian gangs.
The rising tension is taking place in the Ground Safety Zone, established in Serbia after the end of NATO bombing as a buffer zone, with the purpose of preventing the Yugoslav army from threatening Albanian refugees. The "safety zone" has in fact been turned into a "conflict zone," having been taken over by Kosovan rebels. This had been largely facilitated by the peace agreement, which stops KFOR from entering into Serbia.
There is a growing concern within the NATO alliance that its troops might prove to be in the centre of the conflict. The worrying possibility comes after hundreds of Albanians clashed with French troops in the Kosovan town of Mitrovica earlier this week.
The Albanian fury was directed not so much to the Serbian crowd but to the French. At the heart of this antagonism lies the conviction that French soldiers are partial to the Serbs. Milzim Krazniqi, a protestor, was quoted in the Guardian on Wednesday: "The revolt is directed against French KFOR, because they don't respect international codes of human rights. All the crimes in the north have been committed in their presence, and often with their aid."
Helped by British parts, NATO made an effort to restore order in the streets by using stun grenades and tear gas.
"I do not like using force in this way, but KFOR was being attacked and we had to act decisively to stop the violence," said for The Times Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Kilpatrick, the commanding officer of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson condemned the violence in Mitrovica and the Presevo Valley and repeated KFOR's commitment to peace and stability in the area at a press conference for the representatives of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) on 30 January.
Ivana Gogova and Branimira Radoslavova,
2 February 2001
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