European Union Enlargement - Consequences and Problems

By Woyke, Wichard | German Policy Studies, October 2001 | Go to article overview

European Union Enlargement - Consequences and Problems


Woyke, Wichard, German Policy Studies


Abstract

The consequences of the fifth enlargement will be multiple. The capacity of the EU as an actor in international relations will increase whereas the coherence within the community will decrease. New forms of coalition will form in an enlarged EU. The EU will have direct neighbors like Russia, Turkey and Ukraine and Belarus. This means the EU is connected to crisis areas. The more the EU approaches to these crisis areas the more the EU has to develop a strategy how to answer such challenges. Another problem of the enlargement process is the limited public enthusiasm in some EU countries.

1. Introduction

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the socialist countries some months later and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe concerning their role in international relations. But the most immediate political challenge at that time was the German unification. Nevertheless, there was a situation in which the old bipolar world did not exist any longer, but a new order was not established yet. This had to be done by the politicians in the 90ies. So in this new European order the CEES had to find their place. The end of the East-West-conflict produced a growing number of Eastern European requests for associate or full membership with the EU to open its doors to them. "Almost immediately after assuming power, the post-communist leaders of Central and Eastern Europe began to suggest that their countries should be admitted to what soon was to become the EU, as well as NATO" (van Oudenaren 2000:315). The old EC-countries had to find an answer to the demands of the political elites in Eastern and Central Europe. First, the EC countries practiced a policy of economic support (PHARE-Programme, the founding of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1991, the conclusion of the first Europe Agreements in December 1991). After some hesitation, the EC countries formally decided enlargement to be an explicit goal of the European Union on their summit in Copenhagen in 1993. From this day onwards, the question was no longer if there is the entry for the CEES but when there will be the membership of those states. The enlargement of the European Union rises many questions concerning the developments in the EU itself, in the applicant countries and in the old member countries. What will be with the coherence of an enlarged EU? What will be the role of this greater EU in international relations? Will there not have to be a reform of the EU institutions? Can the big gap - economic and political - be filled in a short time without losing coherence and the freedom to act. Is there a possibility to stabilize the Eastern and Central European region? What will be the consequences for societies in the applicant countries? What will be with the competitiveness of companies of the CECs? What will be with the public opinion in the applicant countries and the support for EU membership when it will become clear that the membership has not only advantages but also disadvantages for them? What will be with the societies in the old EU countries when there will be a big migration of workers from East to West? Questions over questions which should now be tried to be answered.

2. The Fifth Enlargement - East Comes to West

The history of the European Community/Union is a history of enlargement. According to the European treaties, every European country has the right to enter the European Union. The first enlargement happened in 1973 when Great Britain, Denmark and Ireland entered the European Community. The British attempt to form a rivalry organization - the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - had failed. In 1981, Greece, which had made its application in 1975, became the 10th member of the Community. Five years later, Spain and Portugal, after having shaken off their dictatorships, and meanwhile having become democracies, entered the EC in 1986. …

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