IS membership in the European Union worth the loss of Alpine
tranquility, or heavy subsidies to Arctic farmers, or protection of
That, in a nutshell, is the question that Norway, Sweden,
Finland, and Austria have been asking themselves as they negotiate
for membership in the 12-country European Union.
As the difficult and drawn-out negotiations were set to come
right down to a midnight deadline yesterday, with no assurances of
success, the applicant countries' tough bargaining appeared to
bewilder many on the EU side. After all, wasn't the European Union
supposed to be the magnet, the principal political and economic
pole that would attract the rest of Europe at all costs?
"We're talking about membership in a union, the European Union,
with all the privileges and responsibilities that entails, but
you'd think from the way these talks are going that it's us
requesting entry into Scandinavia," says one EU official, echoing
a frequent refrain in Brussels, the EU headquarters.
The EU's inability to resist the deepest recession of the
postwar era and its failure to pull much weight in negotiating a
Bosnian peace settlement have tarnished its image as a fortress of
economic power and a budding political force, observers note. That,
coupled with the fact that the EU's current members want the four
wealthy candidates admitted into the Union, has emboldened the
applicant countries to push for concessions that they might not
have dreamed of if the beleaguered EU were in better straits.
EU officials continued to insist yesterday that the midnight
negotiating deadline had very little give for any candidate hoping
to be in the Union by Jan. 1, 1995 - primarily because the European
Parliament must review each final membership agreement before
Parliament elections this May if the four are to have time to hold
referendums this year.
Most observers in Brussels concluded after marathon negotiating
over the weekend that Sweden, Finland, and possibly Austria would
meet the deadline, while Norway - which already said "no" once to
membership in 1972 - was the farthest away from an accord.
Norway is sticking adamantly to its demand - summarized in
Brussels as "Not one more cod for Europe" - that its fishing
waters remain closed to Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, as under an
existing fishing agreement. At the same time, however, the
Norwegian government is demanding full access to the European
Single Market for its fish products - a demand opposed by France,
where recent riots by Breton coast fishermen have toughened the
Austria, which at one point was considered a shoo-in for
membership because of its close relations with Germany and economic
dependence on the EU, has also stiffened its negotiating - most
recently over truck access to its Alpine highways. …