|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||23/11/95, Volume 1, Number 10|
Next month's summit of EU leaders in Madrid will provide a highly-visible demonstration of what a future Union of up to 30 members might look like.
A staggering 27 government leaders will attend the summit following Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez' decision to invite a dozen applicant countries from Malta and Cyprus to Baltic and Central and Eastern European states to attend as observers.
There are fears that meetings with the EU's guests and the protocol involved will make the task of getting through a very heavy summit agenda even more difficult.
All this serves to highlight one of the most important challenges which will face EU governments at next year's Intergovernmental Conference - the need to ensure the Union can continue to function smoothly when the number of member states rises beyond the present 15.
Some argue that the next enlargement will not take place this side of the 21st century, no matter how many countries are involved, leaving time for a second IGC to consider more fundamental institutional changes. But European Commissioner and Reflection Group member Marcelino Oreja disagrees, insisting that having an IGC every two to three years “would be a bad system”.
The lessons of the past three years suggest that he is right. One of the most common complaints about the 1996 IGC, provided for in the Maastricht Treaty, is that it is happening too soon and there should have been a longer delay between conferences to give member states more time to assess how well the existing treaty is operating. The prospect of another IGC before the end of the decade would provide Eurosceptics, fond of claiming that the EU is moving too fast to carry the public with it, powerful new ammunition.
Enlargement is a daunting prospect and already some of the faint-hearted are going cold on the idea.
A Commission White Paper on the Common Agriculture Policy and enlargement, due to be published next week, will put a ten to 15 billion ecu annual price tag on admitting as many as ten applicant countries in Central and Eastern Europe into the Union without changes to the CAP. Others have suggested enlargement would add an extra 38 billion ecu to the yearly cost of the EU's structural funds, although this figure is purely hypothetical, based as it is on the cost of extending the level of aid now given to Greece to 12 new countries by the year 2000. In reality, there is no possibility of all of them joining at the same time and they could not absorb such sums, which require matching national funds.
The issues involved are huge. But Gonzalez and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl are expected to use the Madrid summit to insist that wider security and political concerns must outweigh narrower financial issues.
Their words should be heeded. It would be a mistake for such policy issues to become enmeshed in the IGC. Otherwise the temptation for existing member states to threaten to block IGC decisions because of fears they may lose out in future negotiations over the share-out of EU funds could be too strong for some to resist.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry, Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Malta|