According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the EU Commission is to present the Council of Ministers with its position on the free movement of labour from CEECs (Central and East European Candidates) in the near future. Moreover, the working paper advises on four-year transition periods for all future members, while allowing for a review of their status after two years.
In response to this, Commission spokesman Jonathan Faull denied the described position of the EU. At the same time, he said that the Commission is currently considering five scenarios on the free movement of people after enlargement. None of these contained any specific dates, numbers or recommendations, he stressed.
Overall, the EU seems eager not to disclose its intentions regarding the movement of workers from Central and Eastern Europe. However, it is obvious that limitations in this respect will persist in one form or another, as Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi suggested.
Accession Partnership with Turkey finalised
Last week, the EU finally signed the Accession Partnership with Turkey, who initiated talks about becoming EU member as far back as the 1960s.
On the 26 to 27 February, the General Affairs Council adopted a regulation on EU assistance to Turkey and on the EU-Turkey Accession Partnership. These are intended to set out the priorities for national reforms and to facilitate the country's preparations before it becomes a fully-fledged EU member.
At the same time, the finalisation of the accession partnership in times of a financial and political crisis for Turkey demonstrate, among other things, the strategic importance of this state for the foreign policy of the EU itself.
EU to take over in the west Balkans?
In a pamphlet produced and distributed by the Centre for European Reform, a very controversial proposition has been put forward. Namely, it has been argued that the substitution of NATO troops with EU ones will proof beneficial for both the Alliance and the EU.
The London-based Centre for European reform brings together policy specialists from the UK, France and Germany concerned with the future of Europe. In their latest pamphlet entitled "Europe's Military Revolution," they call for the formation of a common EU defence budget. The latter would be used for the development of the EU's military capacity and, indirectly, the Rapid Reaction Force, it is suggested.
Moreover, it would be the replacement of NATO operations with EU ones in the west Balkans that will kick-start the new military capacities of the EU, the pamphlet states. At the same time, this will pose no threat to NATO's standing and sense of purpose. Quite on the contrary, it will strengthen NATO and the transatlantic relationship, the Centre for European Reform points out.
On the other hand, the present tensions between the EU countries and NATO (or the USA) are centred precisely around the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force. It is largely feared that the RRF will widen the divergence of interest between the USA and some EU members (France is a good example). From this point of view, a highly volatile area such as the west Balkans does not seem like a good place to test the development of the so-called transatlantic relationship.
NATO's fears in the Balkans
NATO's list of fears, which has substantially grown recently, was the object of discussion at the extraordinary meeting of NATO foreign ministers held in Brussels on 27 February.
The main issue of consideration was the question of Southern Serbia and the systematic acts of violence being conducted by ethnic Albanians in the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ).
The takeover of the Macedonian village of Tanushevci, close to the Serbian border, by Albanian guerrillas sharply increased fears of a new and uncontrollable spread of the conflict. The more concrete concerns of NATO relate to the possibility of rekindled nationalisms in both Yugoslavia and Macedonia, with the Serb population of the former feeling once again increasingly left out by the West (over matters such as war criminals and Montenegro), and with tension between Slav and ethnic Albanian population of the latter rising.
NATO fears are justified given its past clumsiness in dealing with the crises in the Balkans. This is why the Alliance seems keen to decide on specific and immediate measures to be taken. Besides urging both Serb and ethnic Albanian leaders to enter into direct negotiations for a political solution, NATO foreign ministers agreed to redraw the boundaries of the GSZ, which had become the safe haven for Kosovar extremists. By reducing the size of the zone NATO believes, as stated in the Financial Times, that security along the Serbian-Kosovar border will be increased. This, however, would also allow Serb forces to operate closer to Kosovo thus creating opposition among ethnic Albanians.
The prevention of the spread of violence was also discussed at a meeting held at NATO Headquarters on 27 February of the principals of the five major organisations working in the Balkans: the UN, the EU, the OSCE, the UNHCR and NATO.
US senators believe US-EU differences on several issues are a threat to NATO, AP reports from Washington. First, the new Bush administration is being continuously urged to affirm its commitment to a strong and centralised NATO and to make sure that the new European Rapid Reaction Force is fully integrated within the Alliance so it is not a divergence in transatlantic affairs.
Second, Europe must join the US National Missile Defence (NMD) because not doing so would mean jeopardising "both allied security and allied cohesion," said Gordon Smith, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, quoted in the FT on Wednesday.
And third, NATO expansion eastward to include Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, largely supported by the US, is being viewed, because of Russia, with hesitation in Europe.
Powell visits NATO HQ
Colin Powell, the new US Secretary of State, visited NATO HQ on 27 February and met with Secretary General Lord Robertson and the foreign ministers of all member states. At a press conference following the North Atlantic Council meeting, Mr Powell expressed US decisive commitment to NATO, mostly in response to concerns about the gap between EU and US views on defence and security.
Ivana Gogova and Branimira Radoslavova,
3 March 2001
The Financial Times
NATO Official Homepage
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