Western Balkans and EU - Part 17

posted by julia on 2006/03/22 23:38

[ Western Balkans and EU ]

I would like to come back to the distinction I mentioned yesterday between "privileged partnership" and "membership perspective" for the Western Balkans - a discussion which is rooted in the question of the borders of Europe/the EU.

"Privileged partnership" is the term used for the countries participating in the EU neighbourhood policy (ENP). Countries participating in the ENP are not offered any accession perspective. Nevertheless, according to Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, "enlargement policy and neighbourhood policy complement each other. The Commission is ready to further deepen and enhance cooperation with neighbourhood partners once the main political priorities in the current ENP action plans have been properly addressed." (speech at the European Parliament, 15.3.2006). The Commission has already proposed to make accessible to the ENP the instruments used in the 10 new member countries and in the Balkans such as twinnings and expert assistance through the TAIEX programme.

While the Commission would like to intensify co-operation with ENP countries (and to leave the question of the EU borders open), more and more conservative politicians would rather like to turn the "potential candidates" into "privileged partners" and pull the brake on further enlargements. Their main (official) argument: before thinking about widening, think about deepening. The problem is that the people who use this argument are not always big supporters of deepening, either...

Browsing on the EU website, I found a speech by Olli Rehn adressing the deepening/widening issue and calling it a "false dichotomy". (By the way, it is a pity that Olli Rehn does not have a blog like Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström has!)

So - here an extract of the speech on "Deepening and widening: the false dichotomy", which Olli Rehn held at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) on 9 March 2006:

Does this mean that enlargement should continue irrespective of the current confusion surrounding the constitutional debate? Or, as the euro-jargon puts it, can widening go on while deepening is stuck? This question is sensible, provided that it is not based on the assumption which, frankly, makes me feel uneasy, that enlargement, as such, would be a brake on further integration. Nothing is more wrong than that, as the history of the EU tells us.
Widening versus deepening is indeed a false dichotomy. The EU has always pursued these two objectives in parallel, and never was the one an obstacle for the other.
The first enlargement in 1973 to the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland was preceded by two significant initiatives in 1970: the Davignon Report which kicked off European Political Cooperation (the precursor of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy) and by the Werner Report, which started the first, short-lived effort to create a monetary union. The two Southern enlargements of the 1980s to Greece, Portugal and Spain coincided with the adoption of the Single European Act in 1986, which helped to create the Single Market as well as a strong social cohesion policy with the structural funds.
Then the Berlin Wall came down. Yet, both deepening and widening have again moved ahead in parallel. Take widening: the EU has more than doubled its membership from 12 to 25 member states after the collapse of the Berlin Wall settled. Bulgaria and Romania will join the Union in 2007 or 2008.
Take deepening: the Union has taken major steps in its political and economic integration. We created the single market, the euro and the passport-free travel in the Schengen area, and reinforced the common foreign and security policy.
Some years ago, who would have believed, for instance, that Europe would take over peace-keeping missions in Bosnia or in Africa? Could you find a single person who would have bet that the EU would be in charge of security at the Rafah border-crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip? Or being prepared to take the overall responsibility of international presence in Kosovo after the status settlement?

Map: countries participating in the European Neighbourhood Policy (in dark green/except Russia), source: EU


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This weblog is a forum for discussion on the political and social processes linked to EU integration in the Western Balkans. We would also like to use this space to create a virtual network of researchers on this topic. You are most welcome to contribute to this weblog with comments, postings, links, or photos. Please use the "add comment" function at the end of each posting!
All photos by the Photo Arts Collective of Kosovo. First photo by Burim Myftiu (Swimming olympiade in Klina). Second photo by Mimoza. Third photo by Dashmir Izairi.
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