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
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
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 were recollected.
1950 – R. Schuman proposed to pool coal and steel resources of France
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 the Community.
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
1995 – Sweden, Finland and Austria joined the European Union.
1996 – Malta applied to enter the EU. This application was soon frozen
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
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
1998 – Malta reactivated its application for Community membership made
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
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
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 countries.
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
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
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