The anticipation seminar ” Enlargement in a post-Euro EU: Estimating the new political factors ” organized by the Association Europe 2020, was held on February 4th, 2020, at the Kleber Centre of International Conferences (Paris), thanks to the support of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Minister in charge of European Affairs, Mr Pierre Moscovici.
Sixty guests came from 25 Member and Candidate States and gathered under the auspices of Europe 2020 for a one day-long open discussion. The distribution of the three scenarios of enlargement of Europe 2020 and of a selection of recent studies on enlargement (selected from the European Commission’s ERB, mostly) prior to the seminar, contributed to the quality of the debates that took place on an issue of great importance for this decade : the enlargement of the European Union..
By opening the seminar to representatives from both member and candidate states and providing the arena for a sincere, transparent and ” wood-tongue “-free debate, Europe 2020 meant to contribute to a better reciprocal understanding of the real expectations in the candidate states, and to compare those with the objective possibilities of the EU.
Organized 5 days after the publishing by the European Commission of its estimation of the preliminary cost of enlargement (2002-2006), and 6 days before the first meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers on this very theme, the Europe 2020 seminar enabled to take note of the fact that, at least in the member-states, this beginning of February marked the real start of a public debate on EU enlargement. Post-Euro EU being first and foremost that of the citizens of Euroland appropriating a European construction of which they have suddenly become the “share-holders” with no “voting-rights” – until now, there was a risk that enlargement could play a role of catalyst in the institutional and budgetary debate underlying the growing institutional powerlessness of the EU.
This executive draft intends to shed some light over the on-going debate on enlargement, a debate which goes far beyond the accession of the concerned states. To this purpose, Europe 2020, whose sole responsibility is engaged in this document, wishes to highlight :
I. The 17 crucial questions of the debate on enlargement – if not known and answered, enlargement cannot be a success
II. The fact that the debate on enlargement really begins today in most EU countries
III. The existence of three types of criteria at stake, and not only of the economic criterium
IV. The highly reducing character of the ” date ” / ” budget ” issue
V. The weakness of the main arguments used by the protagonists
VI. The teachings of the successful Euro-Switch
VII. The importance of a differentiated communication strategy, including within the EU
VIII. The recommendations of Europe 2020
I – 17 Questions in order to take the full measure of the enlargement process:
In its part of the opening session, Europe 2020 asked 17 questions surrounding the issue of enlargement and which answer seem to condition its feasibility, calendar and relevance :
1. Is the key-issue of the decade the success of enlargement (a tool or a transition), or the success of the enlarged EU (a final objective) ?
A contrasted answer : A large majority considers that the key-issue is the success of the enlarged EU and that enlargement is just an instrument ; while some participants think theoretical debates should be avoided in order to concentrate on the concrete aspects of enlargement.
2. What is a successful enlarged EU ? Is it basically a EU working efficiently, receiving the active support of its citizens and playing its role No answer
3. What is a successful enlargement? Is it a process enabling to reach the triple objective of the previous point, and provide the general framework to tackle properly the issue of enlargement?
4. Has the debate on enlargement in the EU begun 3 or 4 years ago? Or is it really beginning in February 2002?
Except for some few member-states (Austria and the Netherlands, namely), it only begins today.
5. The Euro has let in 300 million people enter the European debate ; does this fundamentally change the nature of the enlargement process compared to the previous enlargements, and turns it into a concern for the populations too?
Yes. More and more, via elections and referendums, populations will find ways to be heard when they have the felling they are not properly listened to.
6. If the Nice Treaty is not ratified (which is likely to happen), what is the real predicting value of the calendars, public declarations and Treaties, lastly?
A contrasted answered : One side thinks the calendar is untenable ; another assumes the official character of the calendar and holds on to it ; a third side considers that despite some difficulties, any delay in the calendar would result in violent reactions in the candidate states.
7. Have the last 10 years of cooperation between the EU and the CEEC served to modernize CEECs and upgrade them in the perspective of a process of integration (a process then requiring 5 to 10 more years to be fulfilled), or did they directly prepare for integration?
First and foremost, they served to modernize these countries.
8. If the Euro-Launch results in the emergence of a Euroland politically and economically more integrated in 2002/2003, will this situation not create a rupture in the EU, raising new institutional questions, namely relating to enlargement?
The general feeling is Yes ; but no one goes further in this direction.
9. Has the EU seriously been preparing to enlargement in the last 10 years?
10. Are the European institutions which have conducted the enlargement in the last 10 years today still the ” driving forces ” likely to bring to reality their vision of enlargement? Or have they become weak and hardly credible from the public opinions’ point of view?
The representative of one member state in particular considered that the institutions were still efficient. Most of the EU participants think that the European institutions have lost a great deal of their credibility as well as they have considerably weakened in the last 2-3 years; they are no longer “driving-forces”.
11. A 10 year-long intense preparation, including a strong implication of the populations and a publicly acknowledged calendar (including by referendum), was that a decisive asset in the success of the Euro-Launch? Does enlargement benefits from the same preparation?
Yes, this preparation was decisive. No, enlargement is far from it.
12. Have the leaders in the candidate-states not made an abusive use of the ” EU accession excuse ” to justify the necessary measures of modernisation in their countries? This tendency has it not artificially created the supposed ” popular-pressure ” for a fast enlargement?
13. The cost of enlargement is real ; but it is profitable in the medium and long-term as long as the ” cost of non-enlargement ” is calculated. Is it wise that the leaders of both member and candidate states continue to hide this fact to their populations ? Is it wise to act as if the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the suppression of the British “discount” and the increase of the German net contribution, were not to be addressed any way?
A contrasted answer : No “it is not wise to hide it to the populations” for part of the audience; but “we should also be able to make our way through enlargement without paying too much” adds another group.
14. What value can we grant to the measures of the level of preparedness of the candidate states, via the system of ” closed chapters ” which translation into reality no one is able to assess?
A contrasted answer : For some, “the closed chapters reflect reality because the administrations in the candidate-states must be trusted ” ; ” Wrong “, retort the others, ” in most cases, all this is nothing but good intentions, largely disconnected from reality “.
15. In the end, has enlargement not always been a political act in which the economic aspect is nothing but a preliminary or accompaniement measure ? If this is the case, then could the degree of political preparedness be the key factor?
16. Big-Bang or differentiation ? A great debate ! But where are the objective criteria ? The field-evaluation?
17. All the EU parameters (institutions, governance, democratization, …) will have changed by 2005. Are the candidate states aware that the EU which they refer to no longer exists?
No, and still yes, the EU will change radically. The candidate states still have the image of the EU as it existed in 1995-98.
At the end of the day, after some very interesting debates in which every participant took a part, it was useful to note that on these 17 questions, only 12 got an answer. On these 12, 3 were contrasted answers, see antinomic ones, while 9 strongly converged.
The questions left unanswered by the speakers/participants: 2, 3, 15, 16
The questions which received antinomic answers: 1, 6, 10, 13, 14
The questions which received converging answers: 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 17
II – The political debate on enlargement is only beginning – Its guiding lines : political feasibility and avoiding the desintegration of post-Euro EU
Public opinions, in particular in Euroland, are now joining the game on the issue of enlargement. The relationship between enlargement and Euro is the very question asked in this seminar.
Either Euroland will structure by itself among its 12 members (economic government, Euroland Parliament…), or it will relate its destiny – and that of the Euro – to the enlargement of the EU, and therefore to the states which do not share its currency. The public opinion will soon become aware of the oddity of this situation and decision-makers should anticipate in order to find out the answer they should bring.
The debate on enlargement has begun a few months ago in some member states, such as Austria and the Netherlands. But in a vast majority of EU member states, it is the budget figures issued at the end of January which launch the debate. This financial and budgetary approach could strengthen the link with the Euro in the minds of Euroland citizens, and thus runs the risk to put a brake on enlargement. It should also be kept in mind that an ill-managed communication or an ill-programmed enlargement could create a convergence between two parts of the public opinion which nothing should “a priori” bring together : the pro-Europeans who are in favour of enlargement unless, not properly organized, it appears to weaken the process of integration / the “anti-enlargement”s, generally close to the xenophobic and anti-European circles.
In the same line, it is crucial to connect the outcome of the Convention and the process of enlargement. To achieve the second before knowing the first would result in an politically intolerable situation in the EU … and an intellectually totally absurd one: the current EU is not able to assume the weight of new member states; its administrative and political system is already paralysed, and requires to resort to the convention and other schemes.
III – types of criteria at stake
Debating with the representatives of 25 member and candidate states confirms the serious limitations of the method used for enlargement. Speeches indeed enabled to identify 3 types of criteria, out of which one only is the official one, despite the fact that it is the most formal and disconnected from field-reality:
– Type 1 : the chapters of the ” acquis communautaire ” – the official criterium
Closing the chapters imposes its rhythm to the life of the European administrations in charge of enlargement, as well as to the candidate states. Each and everyone finds there motives of mutual congratulations : the teacher because he has such good pupils ; the pupils because they are so gifted and have such a good teacher… However, closing the chapters is a purely administrative and formal process, often resulting from a negotiation between the candidate state and the Commission, and therefore reflecting no field-reality whatsoever. This situation is a serious problem because enlargement is a concrete problem requiring administrations, companies and executives able to absorb the shock of the entry on the EU, and this will not be an administrative event.
– Type 2 : the political criteria – the real criterium
If the economic and administrative sectoral approach is required to ensure a good preparation to accession, it remains a fact that the enlargements are decided upon purely political reasons. Otherwise, neither Portugal, nor Ireland nor Greece for instance, would have integrated the EU. In the end, the decision the EU will make will be based on political criteria, consisting in the identification of a ” group of countries ” politically inseparable. The work of economic preparation was needed to modernize the country; but not directly to make it join the EU.
– Type 3: the elective affinities – the hidden criterium
There are of course lobbies involved in the process of enlargement. These lobbies are of two kinds: general lobbies, in favour of an enlargement taking place as soon and as largely as possible (such as the United States and multi-national companies); and lobbies focused on a country or a sector for reasons of historical, geographical or cultural elective affinities. The Scandinavians support the Balts, the Germans support the Poles and the Slovenes, the French support the Romanians and the Bulgarians, etc… In the end, this ” hidden criterium ” (” Who are you supported by ? “) will be the ” variable of adjustment”, and the ultimate argument in the big bargaining of enlargement (“I take yours, if you take mine !”).
All in all, it is always possible to imagine something else than the Big-Bang, but under which criteria ? Now who says ” Big-Bang “, also says ” wait for the institutional reorganisation “..
IV – The focus on two reducing indicators : the cost and the date
The focus currently made on two elements – the cost and the date – in the debate on enlargement can certainly be understood. However these two elements make no sense if they are not integrated to the larger-ranging final objective: achieving successfully the enlarged EU. This reducing approach can only compromise the success of enlargement itself and especially that of its ultimate goal : the reunification of the European continent.
Available budgets do exist. In France with the Common Agricultural Policy, in Germany with its will to limit its financial contribution, and in the UK with its refusal to question the yearly “check” bargained by Margaret Thatcher in 1984 : the real will of each of these countries to achieve the enlargement should be measured to their capacity to question their ” acquis “.
On another hand, within the next 4-5 years, most of the candidate states will be ready to join the Single Market (at least as much as Portugal was 15 years ago). However, in the political, administrative and citizen fields, a lot remains to be done.
London, Berlin and Paris should first resolve their contradictions :
. Paris: it is no longer possible that Paris keeps on preserving the interests of its agricultural lobbies against the interest of the Europeans. The CAP must be fundamentally reformed, in order to extricate the financial resources needed in other fields, such as enlargement.
. London: it is no longer possible that London appears as “the unconditional promoter of enlargement” while it refuses that the EU budget increases, and while it carefully watches that it gets its multi-billionnaire yearly check, bargained formerly (Check vs Single Act in 1984), at a time when the EU must find new resources in order to welcome the candidate states
. Berlin: it is no longer possible that Berlin appears as ” the great friend of enlargement ” and at the same time refuses to see its financial contribution increase. The unification of Europe, just like the reunification of Germany, will have a cost that the Germans will partly cover ; but for an economic power, the accountant-approach makes no sense : what a State draws from its budget, its companies recuperate it 10 times on the markets of its partners inside the EU. Moreover the experience of the German unification is useful : contrary to the latter, enlargement this time has no reason to take place in the urge (for the CEEC, there are no risks of social explosion nor of Soviet invasion, in the next 3-4 years); now the speed of the German unification was a key factor in its final cost.
Finally, as regards to the candidate states, the focus made on the financial amounts should be made more relative given that :
On the one hand, even the most modern ones find it difficult to use the existing amounts (for instance, SAPAR in the agricultural field, in which only 10% of the allocated amounts were engaged until today) ; fighting for some financial “show-off” disconnected from any concrete capacity of absorption is a sterile game.
On the other hand, the EU has a ” natural ” tendency, especially since the Commission’s crisis in 1998/1999, to multiply the financial and administrative constraints weighing on the use of allocated grants, and therefore contributes a great deal to prevent their effective engagement. It might be useful to wonder if it is healthy to impose such strong constraints on the financial and administrative circuits in the candidate states, constraints that most members states would be incapable to assume ; between the ” bureaucratic ” imperative and the requirement for tangible results, there is certainly a middle way to find.
V – Some very weak ” arguments ” in each side
. On the EU side: The debates have enabled to notice that the current official scenario has no other legitimacy than being ” official “. Indeed, within the EU, the converging analyses have highlighted a large consensus over the rather preoccupying diagnosis concerning the ” state of the Union ” which can only be made compatible with the forecast calendar thanks to a particularly remarkable ” act of faith”, i.e. that “the more serious the crisis is, the more chances the EU has to find a solution”, a conviction fed from the last 50 years of European construction.
. On the candidates’ side: The central argument which consists in insisting upon ” the impossibility for the populations ” to wait any longer without being ” rewarded ” for the sacrifices endured all along the last decade, is not illustrated by any explanation on the nature of the “risks” run in case a reasonable delay (3-4 years) would take place in relation with measures of accompaniement. As to the “reward”, it was largely underlined that the perspective of joining the EU greatly facilitated the implementation of the reforms needed to upgrade the totally “destructured” economies and societies after 40 years of communism.
VI – The Euro precedent highlights the fact that with regards to enlargement, everything is still to be done on the side of the EU
The Euro was a technical success and enlargement wishes to be one as well ; it could therefore be useful to find some inspiration in the Euro-method :
Ten years of preparation in the EU
Wide-ranging public communication campaigns
Mobilisation of dozens of thousands of opinion relays and field-actors
Involvement of entire economic sectors (banks namely)
A detailed calendar largely discussed
A preliminary popular validation (via referendums and parliamentary votes)..
Now today, enlargement is completly deprived from such assets.
VII – Communication on enlargement must rely upon a clear and differentiated strategy, including in the EU. Why the enlargement ? An answer not so simple for the citizens
Communication on enlargement will not be the same in Vienna and in Brussels. It must have a clear strategy; and this is far from being the case today. In particular it should concentrate on the ends of the process – tomorrow’s enlarged EU – to avoid sinking into an endless technical questioning, namely on the side of the candidate-states.
In fact it already has a differentiated calendar, as stated previously (some member or candidate states are more advanced than the others in terms of debate).
There is also a thematic/geographic differentiation : citizens of those countries from the ” front-zone ” (Austria, Germany) have a much more direct perception of enlargement than those from countries such as Belgium, France or Portugal. This does not mean that the others will not be affected by enlargement; but it means that the impact (whether positive or negative) will be more important in the bordering countries. Communication in the front-zone must be very practical – policy by policy, sector by sector – to have some credibility. In the rest of the EU, communication can concentrate on the reasons and ends of enlargement which are not so obvious for the citizens. The “support” to enlargement as it appears in the last months’ polls measure nothing but a ” good intention ” : ” Yes, it seems a good idea that all Europeans are gathered again !”. But it does not provide any indication on the citizens’ motivation to accept the financial, political or economic constraints carried along by enlargement.
In this field, it could be useful to launch a study on the ” Cost of non-enlargement “, to be conducted by a Committee made of economists, political scientists, sociologists and historians of the EU (and of the EU only in order to be credible in the member-states at this stage), following the model of the ” Cecchini ” report on the cost of ” non-Europe ” which enabled in its time to communicate efficiently on the utility of the Great European Single Market.
In terms of communication, Turkey is a case on its own, its accession not being on the agenda in this decade. Inside the EU, the question of its accession requires a communication strategy for itself, completely distinct from that of the other candidates ; even within Turkey, there has never been yet an open public debate on the project of joining the EU, even though such debate is an inevitable element on its way to accession.
VIII – The 4 series of recommendations of Europe 2020
1. DESIGNING A COMMUNICATION STRATEGY :
. Following the example of the Euro-Switch and elaborating a differentiated communication strategy by sector and by country in the EU, to be defined by the end of 2002 at the latest
. Drafting a report on the ” Cost of non-enlargement ” to be conducted by some experts independent from the European and candidate institutions
2. RECONSIDERING THE CALENDAR AND THE BUDGET REQUIREMENTS :
. Defining a credible calendar, i.e. a calendar in which those who will defend/promote it can believe (which is not the case of the present official calendar), by the end of 2002
. Putting in parallel the first wave of enlargement and the implementation of the new budget perspectives (no ratification until 2005/2006)
3. HOLDING ONE SINGLE PUBLIC SPEECH IN BOTH THE EU AND THE CANDIDATE STATES :
. Being clear about the fact that neither the EU nor the candidate states will be ready until that time
. Using the available funds for a final phase of preparation to the accession
. Assuming the “Big-Bang” choice, and building a budget and a calendar compatible with it
. Levelling EU finances by 2006 and suppressing all the ” friendly advantages ” developed in the last decades
4. INVENTING TOGETHER THE FUTURE OF THE EU :
. Associating the candidate states as closely as possible to the Convention and other schemes designed to re-invent the EU
. Accelerating the process of integration of Euroland while radically reforming the institutions of the EU, with the input of the candidate states.