In and Out

By Warakaulle, Charlotte Lindberg | The World Today, July 2002 | Go to article overview

In and Out


Warakaulle, Charlotte Lindberg, The World Today


DENMARK

The EU is bracing itself for profound change over the coming six months. The incoming Danish presidency has placed all its political eggs in one basket and made enlargement the top priority. But, issues of inclusion and exclusion always go hand-in-hand. So, while the EU prepares to admit new member states, many European governments are moving to restrict access for third-country nationals.

ON JULY 1, DENMARK TAKES OVER THE rotating Presidency of the European Union (EU) - at least in part. The country's complex system of treaty exemptions - the so-called opt-outs means that Danish ministers will head negotiations in policy areas where Denmark has chosen to stay outside certain provisions. In crucial areas such as defence and monetary policy, Greece will be presiding.

In recent months, politicians - notably those in Pia Kjaersgaard's Danish People's Party - have captured international headlines with moves to tighten national asylum and immigration legislation. Paradoxically, the opt-out on justice and home affairs has the unintended consequence that the Danish government may set the EU agenda in this high-profile policy area, but will not necessarily be implementing legislation adopted under its supervision.

Thus, the Danes will be in and out of the presidency at the same time. But this dual role could well prepare them for tackling the EL's key preoccupations, inclusion and exclusion. While the Danish presidency will focus attention on restricting access to EU territory, the Danes also hope to chair the final stages of negotiations for an unprecedented intake of new EU citizens through enlargement. Keen as it is to limit numbers of third-- country nationals, Denmark is at the same time an ardent supporter of an extension of the Union.

Political and economic conditions for EU membership - the Copenhagen Criteria - were set during the last Danish presidency in 1993. The government hopes to see the process come fill circle with agreement on accession for ten new members - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, the three Baltic states, plus Malta and Cyprus - at the European Council in Copenhagen in December.

All existing member states agree that enlargement is a dominant issue. In particular, the addition of central and eastern European countries would bring a symbolic-- and belated - close to the continents Cold War divisions. Yet, the realities of bread-and-butter politics threaten to overshadow the lofty rhetoric of a united Europe.

PASSING THE BUCK

Enlargement hinges on three conditions: conclusion of negotiations with candidate countries, the establishment of a financial framework, and Union-wide ratification of a new treaty to improve the functioning of the European institutions. None of these has yet been met, although progress is being made on the first.

Financial transfers to new members through the Structural Funds, the EU's main tool for regional development, and the Common Agricultural Policy have, not unexpectedly, proved to be serious stumbling blocks. Most member states have rejected the European Commission (EC)'s proposals for phasing ten new states into these programmes.

The sticking point is not the amounts involved, but rather the suggestion to extend direct payments, also called 'compensatory payments', to farmers in the new member states. Existing members are concerned that it will prove difficult to reduce, or abolish, these payments at future budget negotiations once the candidate countries have become full partners.

The widely publicised dispute between old and new members, however, obscures significant differences of opinion among current members. Net contributors to the EU budget refuse to bear the brunt of enlargement expenses. Net beneficiaries, on the other hand, argue that relatively poorer areas should not be disproportionately affected by enlargement.

In other words, the haves do not want to pay more, and the relative have-nots are unwilling to give up any of the benefits of membership to the absolute have-nots who wish to join. …

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