The Enlargement of the
European Union Towards
Central and Eastern Europe:
The Role of Supranational and
In December 1999, the European Union (EU) closed a decade with the umpteenth ‘historical summit’, held in Helsinki. This time such a euphoric final conclusion was first and foremost inspired by the decision of the European leaders of government and the French head of state to extend the number of candidates for membership to thirteen countries. The particular inclusion of Turkey into this group of privileged states was a true masterpiece of diplomacy.
Everyone seemed happy. In the first place, of course, this included the political elites of the new candidate members. But the geopolitical interests of the fifteen member states also seemed to be better represented: the Scandinavian countries were now assured of the entrance of all three Baltic states; France considered itself fortunate with the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria; and Greece was hoping for the settlement of a number of long-term conflicts as a result of the Turkish candidacy. ‘A better close of the millennium was unthinkable’, according to the Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok (NRC Handelsblad, 13 December 1999).
Now that the smoke of political rhetoric has cleared, it is time for a more critical assessment of the Helsinki decision. Will the prospect of membership and the disciplining nature of the EU’s conditions substantially increase stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe as the presidency conclusions suggest? Or is it just a symbolic act with, potentially, destabilising consequences? The many problems with which the candidate members – and the EU itself – are faced leads one to suspect the latter. Thus far the EU and its member states are reluctant