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The enlargement of the European Union
Europe at the service of peace and democracy
Community Europe has celebrated its 50th anniversary.
On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman made history by putting to the Federal Republic of
Germany, and to the other European countries, the idea of creating a Community of pacific
interests. He began a completely new process in international relations by proposing to old
nations to together recover, by exercising jointly their sovereignty, the influence which
each of them was incapable of exercising alone.
The construction of Europe has since then moved forward every day. It represents the
most significant undertaking of the 20th century and a new hope at the dawn of the new
century. It derives its momentum from the far-sighted and ambitious project of the
founding fathers who emerged from the second world war driven by the resolve to establish
between the peoples of Europe the conditions for a lasting peace.
A historic success
As Europe approaches the dawn of the third millennium, a look back over the 50 years
of progress towards European integration shows that the European Union is a historic
success. Countries which were hitherto enemies, today share a common currency, the euro,
and manage their economic and commercial interests within the framework of joint
Europeans now settle their differences through peaceful means, applying the rule of law
and seeking conciliation. The spirit of superiority and discrimination has been banished
from relationships between the Member States, which have entrusted to the four
Community institutions, the Council, the Parliament, Commission and the Court of Justice,
the responsibility for mediating their conflicts, for defining the general interest of
Europeans and for pursuing common policies.
Economic integration every day highlights the need for and takes people closer to
political union. At international level, the European Union is wielding increasing influence
commensurate with its economic importance, the standard of living of its citizens, its place
in diplomatic, commercial and monetary forums.
The European Community derives its strength from common values of democracy and
human rights, which rally its peoples, and it has preserved the diversity of cultures and
languages and the traditions which make it what it is. Its transatlantic solidarity and the
attractiveness of its model has enabled a united Europe to withstand the pressure of
totalitarianism and to consolidate the rule of law.
The European Community stands as a beacon for the expectations of countries near and
far which watch the Union’s progress with interest as they seek to consolidate their
re-emerging democracies or rebuild a ruined economy.
Today, the Union of the 15 Member States is negotiating the next wave of membership
with 10 countries of central and eastern Europe, and with Malta and Cyprus. At a later
stage, other countries of former Yugoslavia or which belong to the European sphere will in
turn ask to join. The taking on board by the applicant countries of the acquis
communautaire, and more generally of the major objectives of the European Union, is
central to enlargement negotiations. For the first time in its long history, the continent is
preparing to become reunified in peace and freedom.
Such developments are momentous in terms of world balance and will have a huge
impact on Europe’s relations with the United States, Russia, Asia and Latin America.
The key dates of the European Enlargement
1945 – After the Second World War Europe was destroyed. The main problems facing
european states were security and economic reconsrtruction. That’s where the
discussion on any integration of Europe started. The ideas of Kudenhove-Calergi
1950 – R. Schuman proposed to pool coal and steel resources of France and FRG.
1951 – The Paris treaty was signed: France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy,
Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg established the European Coal and Steel
Community. This organization could regulate the European market. It was the first
step of European integration and in terms of the enlargement – it was the original
platform to enlarge.
1961 – Ten years later, after the EEC and the Euroatom were created (1957), the UK – the
leader of EFTA (1960) – applied to enter the EEC.
1963, 1965 – the situation was not that favourable for the UK. On the initiative of De
Gaulle, the French leader at that moment, France twice vetoed the UK’s accession to
1967 – A new application for Community membership from the UK (the fourth attempt),
Denmark and Ireland.
1972 – Here we have the first enlargement: The Treaty on the accession of Denmark,
Ireland, Norway, the UK was signed in Brussels. In Denmark and Norway the
referendums were hold and Norwegian people decided not to join the Community
(they will change their mind only in 1996). So, in 1973 the agreement on accession
entered in force only for three applicants: the UK, Denmark and Ireland.
1973 – Greece applied to enter the Community. During the 70-ties the EC was discussing
the situation with Mediterranean states. Greece, spain and Portugal were not able to
join the Community because of dictatural governments ruling there.
1981 – Finally, after the dictature collapsed, Greece entered the EC.
1986 – Five years later Spain and Portugal joined the Community.
1993 – After a long pause the enlargement was continued – the negotiations on Austria,
Sweden and Finland accession were opened.
Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the European Community quickly
established diplomatic relations with the countries of central Europe. During the 1990s, the
European Community and its Member States progressively concluded Association
Agreements, so called 'Europe Agreements', with ten countries of central Europe. The
Europe Agreements provide the legal basis for bilateral relations between these countries
and the EU. The European Community had already established similar Association
Agreements with Turkey (1963), Malta (1970) and Cyprus (1972). In the case of Turkey, a
Customs Union entered into force in December 1995.
1995 – Sweden, Finland and Austria joined the European Union.
1996 – Malta applied to enter the EU. This application was soon frozen till 1998.
1997 – At its summit in Luxembourg in December 1997, the European Council decided
that the enlargement process should encompass:
the European Conference, a multilateral framework bringing together ten central
European countries, Cyprus and Turkey, which was launched on 12 March 1998;
the accession process, covering ten central European countries and Cyprus, which
was launched on 30 March 1998;
the accession negotiations, which the European Council decided to open on 31
March 1998 with six countries, as recommended by the European Commission:
Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.
1998 – Malta reactivated its application for Community membership made in 1996.
1998 – The EU formally launched the process that will make enlargement possible. It
embraces the following thirteen applicant countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech
Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, the Slovak
Republic, Slovenia and Turkey.
1999 – The Commission adopted its reports and a general composite paper on the progress
made by each of the candidate countries (ten central European countries, Cyprus,
Malta and Turkey) towards accession. They show that all countries except Turkey
fulfil the political criteria for accession and that only Cyprus and Malta fully meet the
economic criteria. Based on these regular reports, the Commission has recommended
to open negotiations with Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and also with Bulgaria
and Romania but subject to certain conditions for the latter two. The Commission has
also recommended to conduct accession negotiations through a differentiated
approach taking account of the progress made by each candidate.
1999 – A new institutional process was put in train by the decision taken by the European
Council meeting in Helsinki to convene an intergovernmental conference with the
aim inter alia of adapting the treaties to the conditions whereby a Union enlarged to
over 20 members can function smoothly.
2000 – Negotiations with Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Malta on the
conditions for their entry into the Union and the ensuing Treaty adjustments started.
As for Turkey - The European Council welcomed recent positive developments in
Turkey, as well as its intention to continue its reforms towards complying with the
Copenhagen criteria. In doing so, Turkey is considered as a candidate State to join
the Union on the basis of the same criteria as applied to the other candidate States.
December, 2000 – By agreeing - on a Treaty of Nice, the EU member states also removed
the last formal obstacle to moving ahead with the EU enlargement process. The
conclusions go on to say that "the time has now come to lend fresh impetus to the
process". The summit broadly endorsed the enlargement strategy proposed by the
Commission, and emphasised "the principle of differentiation, based on each
candidate country's own merits", and "allowance of scope for catching up". The road
map for the next 18 months will ease the way for further negotiations, bearing in
mind that those countries which are the best prepared will continue to be able to
progress more quickly, the summit concluded.
Meanwhile, the summit expressed appreciation for the efforts made by the
candidates, and requested them "to continue and speed up the necessary reforms to
prepare themselves for accession, particularly as regards strengthening their
administrative capacity, so as to be able to join the Union as soon as possible". And it
welcomed the establishment of economic and financial dialogue with the candidate
2003 – The Union has declared that it will be ready to welcome new countries from the
start of 2003.
The weighting of votes in the future council
The Treaty of Nice signed at the summit decided not only on voting rights for the current
fifteen member states, but also on the votes that the candidates will have as they become
member states. The full list is as follows:
Germany, United Kingdom, France and Italy – 29
Spain and Poland – 27
Romania – 14
Netherlands – 13
Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal – 12
Sweden, Bulgaria, Austria – 10
Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania – 7
Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg – 4
Malta – 3
Total – 342
A qualified majority in the new voting system will be 255 (74.56%).
The enlargement facing the EU today poses a unique challenge, since it is without
precedent in terms of scope and diversity: the number of candidates, the area (increase of
34%) and population (increase of 105 million), the wealth of different histories and
cultures. Third countries will significantly benefit from an enlarged Union.
The challenges of the future
After a half century of Community history, Europeans still have a lot of soul-searching
to do: How far could and should the Union be taken in order to maximise the strength
which derives from unity, without at the same time eroding identity and destroying the
individual ethos which makes the richness of our nations, regions and cultures? Can they
move forward in step, thanks to the natural harmony which favours consensus between 15
countries, or should they recognise divergences of approach and differentiate their pace of
integration? What are the limits of Community Europe, at a time when so many nations,
starting with the new democracies of central and eastern Europe and the Balkans, along
with Turkey, are asking to join the process of unification in progress? How can the people
of Europe get everyone involved in the Community undertaking and give them the feeling
of a European identity which complements and goes beyond fundamental solidarity?
All these are questions of principle, fundamental questions the answers to which will
themselves determine the specific and technical matters addressed daily by those who have
the task of taking this Community undertaking forward.