Prospects for the European Union after the Irish Referendum

What Final Frontiers
for the European Union ?
Graham Avery
University of Iceland, Reykjavik
23 September 2008
• Following the EU’s extension from 15 to 27
members, it continues its enlargement policy.
• The Western Balkan countries and Turkey are
officially recognised as prospective members.
• Other countries in the European
neighbourhood aspire to membership.
• What are the prospects for future
enlargement? Where will the EU’s final
frontiers lie? Can they be decided in advance?
• Avery G., ‘An Ever-Wider Europe? Where will
the EU’s borders end?’ Challenge Europe 16,
European Policy Centre, Brussels, 2007
• Avery G, ‘EU Expansion and Wider Europe' in
Bomberg E., Peterson J. & Stubb A. (ed.s), ‘The
European Union: How Does it Work?’ Oxford
University Press, 2008 (chapter 9)
Enlargement of EU : why?
• Magnetic attraction of European model of
integration since 1957
• Countries continually knocking on the door
– only 10 years without applicants
• EU increased from 6 to 27 members
– from 20o million to 500 million people
– from 4 to 23 official languages
• Now bigger than
– USA (300 m) Russia (140m) Japan (125m)
• Continental scale
• Founders of EU expected expansion
– ‘Any European state may apply to be a
member’ (Treaty of Rome 1956)
• But subsequent extensions were
– not planned: reactive, not proactive
– not result of ‘imperial ambition’
– not predicted: who expected EU-27?
• So prudence now in forecasting future
Enlargement of EU : how ?
• Until 1993:
– no criteria for membership
– no period of preparation
• Then Copenhagen criteria:
– political (democracy, rule of law, human rights,
protection of minorities)
– economic (functioning market economy)
– administrative (capacity to apply acquis)
• Conditionality
– monitoring of progress: regular reports
– link with accession negotiations
– leverage for political & economic reform
• Transformative power of EU
• ‘EU’s most successful foreign policy’
– but enlargement is not external policy ...
– ... it’s when the external becomes internal
• Widening & deepening: antithetical?
– Has ‘more’ led to ‘less’?
Enlargement of EU : who ?
• Article 49: ‘Any European state which respects
the principles set out in Article 6 (1) may apply
to become a member of the Union’
• Article 6 (1) : ‘The Union is founded on the
principles of liberty, democracy, respect for
human rights and fundamental freedoms, and
the rule of law’
Amsterdam Treaty 1997
• Membership of EU is based on values
• Yes, but EU was designed for
– ‘ever-closer union of peoples’
– not for world government
• Logically, expansion must stop somewhere
• So what are the limits of Europe?
– a debate demanded by politicians & public
– but not yet engaged ...
• ‘enlargeophobes’ vs. ‘enlargeophiles’
What limits for Europe ?
• Geographical :
– Seas in North, West & South, but in East:
• Ural Mountains & Caspian Sea?
– but Europe is a peninsula of Asian land-mass
• Historical:
– Roman Empire? Charlemagne?
– Renaissance? Enlightenment?
• ‘Cultural’:
– Christianity?
“The term ‘European’ has not been officially
defined. It combines geographical historical
and cultural elements which all contribute to
European identity. The shared experience of
proximity, ideas, values, and historical
interaction cannot be condensed into a simple
formula, and is subject to review by each
succeeding generation. It is neither possible
nor opportune to establish now the frontiers of
the European Union, whose contours will be
shaped over many years to come”
European Commission 1992
But is it really impossible ?
• Towards a list of European states
• Compare other European organisations
– Council of Europe: 47 members
– Organisation for Cooperation & Security in
Europe (OSCE): 56 members
• They have different aims &tasks than EU ...
• ... but all EU members are signatories
Council of Europe
• 27 European Union members plus:
• Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia,
Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Serbia
• Turkey
• Iceland, Norway, Switzerland
• Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova,
Russian Federation, Ukraine
• Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino
• 47 Council of Europe members plus:
• Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
• Canada, United States of America
• Holy See (Vatican)
• If we leave aside
– Transatlantic members of OSCE (Canada, USA)
– Central Asian members (Kazakhstan etc.)
– Mini-states (Andorra etc.)
• We have 17 states officially recognised as
European which are not EU members
– 6 Western Balkan countries
– Turkey
– 6 countries in European Neighbourhood Policy
– 3 countries in European Free Trade Association
– Russia
EU-44 ?
How many members for EU ?
• EU-27 will not necessarily become EU-44:
– No state is obliged to apply
– EU is not obliged to accept an applicant
– New states may be created (cf. Kosovo)
– States may leave EU
• But this list of 17 does represent the ‘outer
limits’ of Europe as officially recognised in
the first decade of the 21st century
‘Absorption capacity’
• 4th criterion agreed at Copenhagen in 1993:
• ‘The Union’s capacity to absorb new members,
while maintaining the momentum of
European integration, is an important
consideration in the general interest of both
the Union and the candidate countries’
• Demystified by Commission in 2006 , but
European Council said ‘pace of enlargement
must take absorption capacity into account’
• Question: is Lisbon Treaty a condition for
future expansion of EU?
The next frontiers
• In short & medium term EU will limit its
expansion to:
– 6 countries of Western Balkans: membership
promised by EU at Thessaloniki in 2003
– Turkey: accession uncertain, and in any case
will take a long time
– 3 EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland,
Norway): if they apply, could join rapidly
Western Balkans
• 6 countries (& Kosovo): 25 million
• Slow progress to EU membership
– Heritage of conflict
– Uncertain frontiers
– External dependence - protectorates
• But what realistic alternative?
– Completely surrounded by EU
• Not whether, but when ...
• Longest wait: candidate since 1987
• Biggest candidate: 72m now, 85m in future
• Arguments in favour of membership
– Economics: rapid growth, labour force
– Politics: geostrategic position - yes, but ...
• Problems with membership criteria
– Minorities, civil/military, freedom of expression
• Problem of Cyprus
EFTA: The ‘forgotten enlargement’
• Norway’s membership of EU
– 2 Treaties signed, but 2 referendums said ‘no’
• Switzerland’s membership of EU
– application made in 1992, but withdrawn
• Iceland’s membership of EU?
– a question of debate in Iceland
• European Economic Area
– EU’s closest relationship with neighbours
The final frontiers
• In longer term EU may consider as potential
members the East European countries
– Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Moldova, Belarus
• Presently in EU’s Neighbourhood Policy
– an ‘accession-neutral’ relationship
• But Russia’s invasion of Georgia has new
implications both for NATO & for EU
Russia ?
• Idea of EU membership mentioned by
leaders on both sides (Yeltsin, Berlusconi)
• But is membership feasible with Russia’s
– self-image as a ‘great power’ ?
– population of 140 million ?
• In terms of values, Russia today seems to be
moving away from EU
• But maybe one day ... ?
Decide EU’s final frontiers now ?
• Not possible: enlargement needs unanimity
– existing EU members have differing views
• Not rational: other options not yet clear
– strategic partnership?
– enhanced Neighbourhood Policy?
• Not desirable: definition of limits would
– discourage states excluded
– diminish leverage for states included
• Final limits are likely to result
– not from strategic choice made in advance
– but from successive political decisions & events
• Policy of ‘constructive ambiguity’
– neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ to future enlargement
• But EU must keep its door open for other
Europeans to join us in the construction of
the ‘European house’
What Final Frontiers
for the European Union ?
Graham Avery
University of Iceland, Reykjavik
23 September 2008