The enIargement of the European Community
by David SPENCE
Enlargement of the European Community is firmly on the agenda.
Several countries have made formal applications and negotiations officially
began with Sweden, Austria and Finland at a meeting of foreign ministers on I
February 1993. Many other European states have also announced their intention to
apply for Community membership. So the questions 'Why enlargement? And why now?'
are justified. The answers are complex and they point to a major shift in world
Europe is at a turning point brought about in 1989, when the
Berlin Wall fell and the fate of the former Soviet bloc was sealed. The collapse
of the Soviet Union brought the end of the bipolar system and of division in
Europe. It has meant a new era in international relations. As a result, two
groups of states feel free to apply for Community membership; those formerly
under Soviet influence and those with traditions of political neutrality.
German unification was one immediate manifestation of this new
era in international relations. Freed from the constraints of Soviet hegemony,
the two states came together after decades of artificial separation. The new
Germany rapidly became a symbol for the potential unification of the whole of
Europe and a catalyst for further Community enlargement. Indeed, through German
unification, one enlargement of the Community has already taken place. The
former German Democratic Republic (GDR) was integrated into the German Federal
Republic in October 1990, thereby becoming an integral part of the European
Community. There was not, of course, a formal accession of the GDR, but the
Community was enlarged by the nearly 17 million citizens of the five new German
The other countries of East and Central Europe are now
envisaging Community membership. And with neutrality in question, some members
of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) have reviewed their position on
limiting cooperation in Europe to strictly trade matters.
To this widening to the North and East comes scope for a
Southern and Eastern enlargement, in the shape of the Mediterranean countries of
Turkey, Cyprus and Malta. So, while entry in the short-term is foreseen only for
the EFTA states, there are many countries waiting in the wings. Their reasoning
is simple. The end of European division has reawakened a sense of cultural
solidarity throughout Europe and there is a strong political and economic
attraction in being part of the Community.
But there is a political problem about enlargement. The
Community has to reach a view on those countries where membership is politically
desirable and there is a clear sense of European identity, but where problems
exist with regard to implementation of all the achievements of European
integration. The risk lies in the potential for a multi-speed Europe. In short,
the advantages of enlargement risk being counter-balanced by economic costs and
the creation of hurdles to further integration.
Defining potential candidates for membership
The European Community is undeniably known as 'Europe'. But
Prague and Vienna are clearly as much part of Europe as Berlin, Paris and
London. Interestingly, if you look at the map of Europe in the 16th century, the
fault line distinguishing Western Christendom from Orthodox Christianity has
great relevance for the borders of today. Add to that the frontier of Islam and
the Slav areas and the map gains even more current relevance-especially in
Where does Europe end? How many states will the Community of
2006 comprise? The maps of the European Community and the European Economic Area
are certainly not the whole story. The treaties are very clear on the legal
pre-requisites for membership. Article 237 of the Treaty of Rome and Article O
of the Maastricht Treaty specify three conditions. Acceptable candidates must be
European, have a clean record on human rights and be democratic states.
Entrance requirements are not only legal. Negotiations will take
place on the basis of the Treaty of European Union (Maastricht), including the
vital pillar of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Next, accepting
the acquis communautaire-the body of primary and secondary legislation making up
the Community legal and policy framework -is the basic economic pre-condition
for membership. but making the acquis work relies on a market economy and a
properly functioning civil service capable of implementing and supervising
Community legislation. Community decision-making is a complex process. Running
the presidency, for example, makes high demands on the civil service of the
country holding it.
Having fulfilled these criteria and successfully negotiated
membership, the next hurdle for applicants is ratification. The European
Parliament must give its assent to membership, thus giving parliamentarians a
right of close scrutiny of representatives of the Council, the Commission and
the applicant country. Since enlargement involves amendments to the Treaty,
primary legislation will be needed. The parliaments of the Member States must
also ratify the new membership, as must the parliaments of the applicants. From
the perspective of the Community it is sensible for new applicants to be
accepted as a group rather than at different points of time. Otherwise, a series
of separate ratifications would be necessary.
Why EFTA first?
The EFTA states have a head start in the enlargement process,
since much of the important economic integration has been achieved in the
complex negotiations to set up the European Economic Area (EEA). The origins of
the Community's opening towards EFTA lie in the mid-1980s when discussions began
on how the benefits of the Community's internal market could be shared. In the
beginning, the idea was to set up a European Economic Area incorporating EFTA
and the EC and creating one market for the whole of Western Europe. The EFTA
states were not to be required to accept the supranational aspects of full
integration into the Community. For the EFTA countries, participation in the EEA
rapidly came to be seen as the antechamber to full membership, that history had
Membership of the Community would have been conceivable for
Norway and Iceland. As NATO members, they had never resisted international
alliances, as had the other EFTA states. But Norway's bid in 1972 to become a
member of the Community failed when a referendum pronounced against entry and
Iceland has always considered membership to be against its interests. The
neutrality of Austria, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland led to their refusal to
be part of the European Community. They could not reconcile neutrality with the
long term political implications of European integration and the perception of
the Community as part of the Western side in the bipolar world. Their concept of
neutrality is now being redefined.
And there is another important reason for the EFTA countries to
envisage membership. The Community is the largest trading bloc in the world and
the EFTA economies are dependent on it as a market and a source of imports. The
Community's role in setting production standards means there is an economic and
political cost in not participating in the decision-making process by which
those standards are set. As the Norwegian Prime Minister put it in a statement
to the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, on 16 December 1992,'In order to
regain control of many of the forces that shape our daily lives, we must be able
to make democratic decisions that truly enable us to meet our challenges. It is
no longer possible... to tell Norwegian voters that we can carry out all our
tasks by means of decisions in Norway alone. If we cut ourselves off from the
fore where important decisions are made, we are in reality restricting our own
freedom of action... Unless we ourselves decide otherwise, the EC may in a few
years' time comprise all of Europe except for Norway, Iceland, certain countries
in the Balkans and Russia.'
Negotiations with the EFTA states
In practice, the process of enlargement involves the European
Council requesting an opinion on individual applications from the Commission.
Negotiations with the applicant country are then conducted by the presidency in
office of the Council, with the Commission providing technical support through
preparatory and exploratory talks to identify contentious points.
The EFTA countries can be integrated more easily into the
Community than the East and Central Europeans. Much of the acquis communautaire,
which new members must accept, will be incorporated into national law by Sweden,
Finland, Norway and Austria when the European Economic Area (EEA) comes into
force later this year. The EEA was due to begin on I January 1993. It is clearly
intended to be a preparatory stage to membership of the Community for some EFTA
states. Iceland and Liechtenstein have not expressed their intention to become
full members and on 6 December 1992, just as the Commission was preparing its
opinion on the Swiss application for membership, Switzerland's population voted
against ratification of the European Economic Area. The result has been the
postponement of full membership as well. There is currently a pause for
The EFTA states present major advantages for the Community. They
would boost Community GDP considerably, provide an important contribution to
Community finances and a logical integration of the West European aid effort in
Eastern Europe and in the developing world. Moreover, the EFTA countries easily
meet the legal, political and economic criteria for membership.
There are some problematic areas, however. Neutrality was always
seen as the main stumbling block. Sweden, Finland, Austria and Switzerland have
long traditions of neutrality and many commentators have seen an incompatibility
between neutrality and the Treaty of Union's move to a Common Foreign and
Security Policy, leading possibly to more structured concertation on defence
However, various declarations by the EFTA governments seem to
clear this potential problem away. For example, in his letter of 25 November to
John Major as President of the European Council, Swedish Prime Minister Carl
'Sweden shares the political objectives of the European
Community, as laid down in the Maastricht Treaty (les finalites politiques).
This implies, of course, that we are prepared to conduct membership negotiations
on the basis of the Treaty on European Union.'
The implication is that the Union's common foreign and security
policy is not seen as a hindrance to Swedish membership. The Austrian
government's aides memoire before the Lisbon and Edinburgh Councils similarly
confirm 'unconditional commitment to the Treaty on European Union'.
Thus, any remaining problem areas concern parts of the acquis,
which the applicants may not wish to apply immediately. Derogations are not
automatic and the discussions on such points are likely to be complex. The
Community's view is that membership must be on the basis of acceptance of the
whole acquis of the Union-the Treaties of Paris and Rome' the Single European
Act and the Treaty of Union, with all the legal acts of secondary legislation
and European Court decisions in existence.
The economic problems posed by enlargement include the budgetary
effects of membership and negotiations on derogations where the applicant state
is unable to fulfil immediately the criteria of the acquis communautaire. For
states in the early stages of a market economy and for poor states, the demands
of membership could prove hard to meet. This is part of the reasoning behind
taking enlargement as a series of phases, with states entering the Community
only once the criteria are met. Hence the start with the EFTA countries, which,
through the EEA, are able to meet most of the criteria for membership in the
Deepening before widening
'Deepening' the Community means expanding Community competence
to areas hitherto the exclusive domain of the individual Member States and
improving the decision-making process by redefining the rights and duties of the
European institutions. There have been two previous enlargement waves. The UK,
Ireland and Denmark entered in 1973 after the Hague Summit had confirmed the
acceptance by Member States of the principle of the Community's own resources.
The Community had also just introduced European Political Cooperation based on
the Davignon report.
Before Spain and Portugal entered in 1986, Member States agreed
on the Single European Act. This introduced far-reaching changes to the
Community's decision making process and added a string of new competences to
Community business. In addition, political cooperation now became part of the
new Treaty. The Single European Act also anchored the aim of the completion of
the single market by 1992 and ensured that the Community institutions had the
administrative means to match their aim. In addition, it provided the majority
decision-making mechanisms needed to break the deadlock on so many of the
Commission's existing policy proposals.
Changing geopolitics and the drive for enlargement have, in
turn, led to the need to review the Community's internal workings. The Treaty of
European Union signed in Maastricht resulted from the resetting of the European
agenda brought about by German unification. It has added more far-reaching
changes. The most significant is often thought to be economic and monetary union
by 1999, but the importance of the intergovernmental arrangements for legal
cooperation and common foreign and security policy should not be underestimated.
Many saw a reinforced Community as a way of ensuring shared
power over international economic forces, avoidance of German economic
predominance after unification and a 'roof' for the integration of the whole
continent. Maastricht represents the institutional adaptation this implies. By
summer 1993, the European Community should have become the European Union.
The new Union will clearly exercise a considerable power of
attraction for non-Member States. But for the Member States of the European
Union the issue remains how to bring about the enlargement of the Community all
feel is desirable while conserving the advantages of European integration.
Preventing the potential costs of widening from outweighing the benefits brought
by new members will probably mean more discussions about deepening.
Thus, as with previous enlargements, the Community has embarked
on a process of strengthening the integration process before it takes on new
members. The Treaty on European Union represents a first deepening of the
Community. The next intergovernmental conference in 1996 will continue the
There are, however, those who believe that widening should not
take place before the 1996 conference has settled more operational guidelines
for the European Union. The role of the applicant countries in that conference
could be crucial to the shaping of the political identity of the new Europe.
Some believe that the wisdom of the mature democracies of the EFTA group will
contribute to the achievement of a sound system for an enlarged Europe.
Federalists argue that danger lies in diluting the supranational aspects of the
Community by taking on demanding new members, who may wish, in the name of
national traditions, to preserve their independence.
The changes in Europe and the prospect of enlargement have led
to a new assessment of the purpose of integration and posed some of the
fundamental questions raised as long ago as the 1940s when federalists debated
with nationalists about the kind of Europe that should be created. Federalism,
subsidiarily, transparency, democratic legitimacy and the limits of the
integration process are all back on the agenda for debate at the same time as
the Community prepares for enlargement.
Membership or association?
There is an expansive logic to the European Community; a logic
symbolised by the various forms of pre-member ship relations other states in
Europe now maintain with the Community. There are three categories-the inside
track of the EEA, the Euro-agreements with Poland, Hungary and the Czech and
Slovak Republics and, finally, the association agreements with the other
countries of Eastern Europe and with the Mediterranean applicant states of
Turkey, Malta and Cyprus.
In the short term, the shape of the enlarged Community is easily
discernible. If the current negotiations go well, and providing the final
agreements are ratified, the EFTA states will enter by 1995. By then, or soon
thereafter, the question of Malta and Cyprus will arise. Both have formally
applied for membership. There is little dissent about the 'European-ness' of
Malta and Cyprus. But there are fundamental questions posed with regard to their
size and the implications for the management of Community business.
In the case of Cyprus, there are clear political difficulties
arising from the division of the island. The vital question is the respect of
the acquis communautaire -hardly feasible in a country where freedom of movement
of goods and persons is restricted.
Turkey is also a candidate, but Turkish membership is a more
complex issue. The differences Turkey, as an Islamic culture, would bring into
the Community are vast. Many would welcome the diversity. But there is no doubt
that the process of adaptation would not be simple. Add to this the Turkish
level of economic development, difficulties associated with the application of
the acquis communautaire and the political differences with Greece, and it
becomes clear that early Turkish membership however desirable, might be fraught
with difficulties. Successive European Councils have, of course, stressed the
desirability of strengthened economic and political relations with Turkey. To
quote the Lisbon European Council conclusions again
'With regard to Turkey the European Council underlines that the
Turkish role in the present European political situation is of the greatest
importance and that there is every reason to intensify cooperation and develop
relations in line with the prospect laid down in the Association Agreement of
1964 including a political dialogue at the highest level'.
The opening of the Community to the East was formalised by the
'Europe Agreements' with the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary and Poland.
Other East European countries have benefited from association agreements
establishing new trade arrangements. As the Lisbon European Council concluded in
June 1992, cooperation through these agreements is the first stage in a process
intended to lead to Community enlargement 'Cooperation will be focused
systematically on assisting their efforts to prepare the accession to the Union
which they seek'.
After EFTA, the next enlargement wave is therefore likely to
include the states of Central Europe-the Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and
Hungary -the so-called Visegrad states. And thereafter the European Community
will have to consider the Baltic states and many of the component parts of the
former Soviet Union. With the defining line of 'Europe' likely to run along the
Ural mountain range, the size of a resulting European Community would be vast.
The question is whether it would be unwieldy too.
Some implications for the future
The problem about enlargement is the timescale within which it
is to occur. The applicant countries (and those who have indicated that they
will be applicants in the near future) have no time to lose. Given the criteria
for membership I have outlined, various alternatives to full membership have
Alternatives include maintaining the EEA as an ante-chamber to
the Community. Prospective Member States could move into the EEA, having
progressed through an association agreement. The EEA may well prove a sensible
option for those applicants where full acceptance of Community rigours would be
counter-productive-both for the Community and for the country concerned. The
Europe agreements are already intended to be a stepping stone to full
membership. They may prove an acceptable alternative to full membership in the
But, alternative scenarios such as a multi-speed Europe or a
Europe of concentric circles are seen by federalists as potentially dangerous
for the integration process. Member States and applicants choosing from a menu
the dishes they can most easily digest would detract from the aims of European
integration set by the original six. It could prove tempting to take the
benefits of integration without participating in the costs. This is why the
debate about enlargement goes hand in hand with a debate about the future of the
Community itself. The Community now has the rendezvous of 1996 set by Maastricht
for a further review of the need for institutional reform in the light of the
post-Maastricht experience. The parameters will also be set in 1996 for the
future shape of an enlarged Community.
There are clearly many implications of enlargement. A major
issue is the guarantee of the efficient management of Community business. A
Europe of 17, 21 or more members will mean some hard thinking about the
efficiency of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament.
Some will argue that there is no intrinsic need for each Member
State to have a Commissioner. After all, the Commission represents the European
interest and not that of the Member States. As for the appointment of the
Commission President, Maastricht provides for Member States' agreement on the
proposal of Commission President and subsequent endorsement by the European
Parliament. The Parliament may wish to take matters even further and consider a
system of appointment of the whole Commission by itself after consultation with
the Council. This would require rethinking the question of national balance,
looking at the implications of the current political majority in Parliament, the
removal of stalest right to a Commissioner and limits on the numbers of
Commissioners. These would be far-reaching measures and are certainly not on the
cards at present. Indeed, some argue that the number of Commissioners will have
to be reduced if managerial efficiency is to be increased.
As for the Council of Ministers, with 12 members, the Presidency
and the Commission, a tour de table with 10 minutes each already takes 2 hours
20 minutes and the question of working languages and interpreting costs also
raises many thorny issues. The implications of an enlarged Community need
This is also true for the operation of the Presidency of the
Council. This is currently held by each Member State for six months every six
years. Four additional members would lower the frequency to once every eight
years. Should Member States share presidencies? What are the implications for
the European civil services-the Council Secretariat and the Commission. Would
their roles need redefining?
The European Parliament will also be affected. The Edinburgh
Council has already decided to change the balance of membership starting with
the next European elections in 1994. The enlarged Germany, for example, will
receive a further 18 members, thus converting the present 18 East German
observer seats into full parliamentary seats. More Member States means more
seats. Some have estimated at more than 650 the number of seats required to do
justice, proportionally, to an enlarged Community incorporating the EFTA
candidates. This poses the question of how to maintain efficiency in such a
dramatically enlarged parliament.
The Community has to start soon to consider the implications of
a Community of sixteen and potentially of far more. One danger lies in
discussion appearing to the outside world as a list of empty long-term promises.
Open debate, as welcome as we must all find it, can easily create expectations
which political reality may have to dispel. Certainly, the EFTA countries role
in the 1996 intergovernmental conference needs careful consideration. The
options need to be widely discussed.
We need to distinguish political rhetoric from technical
reality. While expressing our readiness to help countries prepare for future
membership, we must avoid the danger of dilution of the goals and effectiveness
of the Community. This means a hard-nosed calculation of the current benefits of
integration and the generation of potential new benefits. The benefits may well
generate destructive conflict at the same time.
Above all, decision-makers will need to avoid increased tensions
within the Community. There are many possible international disputes present in
the countries on the potential applicant list. But the risks are not only in the
international field. There are a series of implications for the internal
policies of the Community. We shall need to reflect on the policy implications
of the next round of enlargement. Finance, social policy, the common
agricultural policy and the common foreign and security policy are obvious
potential sources of stress. Even the definition of subsidiarily is not without
If accession by stages or affiliate status forms part of the
answer, as Commissioner Andriessen has urged, new thinking about alternatives to
full membership may be needed. In the long term, Member States and the Community
institutions will clearly have to consider how much diversity they can tolerate
and which policies they can leave to other international organisations or see
remaining at the national or sub-national level in the framework of
'subsidiarily'. The dangers for the Community are many. It would be sad if the
process of integration and the construction of a supranational Europe risked
dilution because of governmental overload and the impossibility of reconciling
the ideal of closer union with the practicality of a wider yet more efficient