Pyotr ISKENDEROV | 29.03.2014 | 19:11
Ten years ago, on March 29, 2004, the EU took a hasty decision on enlargement adding simultaneously ten more new members: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta. As a result, the European Union became an all-European organization instead of being an economic community. It gave rise to new problems and contradictions.
The process of enlargement, unparalleled in EU’s history, lasted more than a year. The agreement on new states membership was signed on April 16, 2003 by EU members and ten candidates. It was to be followed by a period of ironing out details left unsolved even after the would-be members «swallowed» 300 directives and 100000 pages of pre-accession instructions. For instance, Hungary threatened to respond in kind in case it would be affected by work force restrictions. It referred to the principle of reciprocity stated in the accession agreement. The remaining difficulties had to be speedily ironed out at a number of high-level meetings held before the summit of March 25-26, 2004.
Then the EU had to grapple with problems related to Cyprus. Brussels was frustrated over the results of referendum on «United Cyprus» that took place on April 24, 2004. The Cypriot Turks gave wide support of around 65% to the plan of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. 75% Greek Cypriots were against. They believed the concessions to the Turkish community went too far. But there was nothing to do about it. The EU kept in force its previous decision to make the Greek part of the island a de facto EU member while leaving the Turkish community out.
On May 1, 2004, the ratified accession treaty finally entered into force. That day the EU heads of states and governments, including those of new members, gathered in Dublin (Ireland chaired the European Union at the time) to mark the event.
At first the enlargement was to include Bulgaria and Romania. But the European Commission finally decided the states were not ready to join at the time. They acceded later on January 1, 2007. The postponement impacted the relationship with Brussels afterwards. The two states are still treated as outsiders. For instance, they have not been allowed to join the Schengen agreement as yet. In their turn, Bulgarians and Romanians complain about the double standards often adopted by the European Union. Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean, said in an interview for Die Welt that 7 years after joining the EU, Romanians still do not feel equal to other European citizens and it creates a state of frustration. «Romania's EU accession occurred 10 years ago and certainly there are many issues to be resolved. Meanwhile it is painful that the EU applies double standards and my country is subject to a special control mechanism», the diplomat said in an interview with the daily Die Welt.
According to Madiafax report, «Romania often plays a role in the national election campaigns of other countries, where clichés are delivered that are extremely offensive to us. This creates frustration and makes many Romanians not feel equal to other European citizens», the Foreign Minister said while on a work visit in Germany.
The gist of the problem is extreme politicization of the European Union’s enlargement strategy. Politics, not economics, define the final decisions. As a result, the issues of social and economic inequality and political contradictions have to be solved after the countries have become members, not before.
New EU members claim to be the victims of unfair treatment by Brussels bureaucracy while West European states have their own grievances and psychological complexes. Günter Verheugen, a German politician, who served as European Commissioner for Enlargement from 1999 to 2004, said the founding states see enlargement as a threat. And he admits that, once started, the process of enlargement cannot be stopped or delayed. At that, some states headed by France argued that the expansion should not run ahead of the integration processes inside the European Union. According to statistics, the mass enlargement had ambiguous results. Some states have displayed good dynamics in recent years. On the one hand, the GDP of the Czech Republic grew in 2005-2012 totally by 21, 4 %, in the same period the Slovakia’s GDP grew by 35, 6% and the figure was 33, 6% for Poland. In case of Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - the average total growth index was 19-24%.
On the other hand, the increase was mainly achieved during the first years of membership. Then it abruptly slowed down or even showed minus results. The «United Europe» failed to become a factor of stabilization for new comers. The close integration within the framework of Eurozone also failed. In 2005-2012 the total EU GDP grew by 8% in comparison with only 6,7 % in case of Eurozone. No surprise the sentiments of euroscepticism have significantly spread around in Central and Eastern Europe, including the attitude towards adopting the single European currency. Besides, the internal contradictions have been exacerbating along the North-South and West-East lines. The Ukraine’s becoming a failed state is a result of the EU’s policy of expansion further into Eurasia with the help of Eastern Partnership program…
Peter S. Rashish, Senior Trade Advisor at Transnational Strategy Group LLC and a member of the Advisory Board of the American Security Project, said, «Considering the overwhelming geo-economics imperative of getting TTIP done, is there a risk that it could fail? Yes, if both the U.S. and the EU fall victim to what Freud called the «narcissism of minor differences» and take their eyes off the big picture for too long. While the U.S. and the EU have their legitimate differences on a number of trade, investment and regulatory matters, what divides the two sides of the Atlantic is minor compared to what unites their joint interests».
But in case of Eastern Europe the differences are hardly seen as minor. While becoming members they longed for concrete economic benefits. The hopes have been frustrated so far.