EU enlargement-overload - where does the European footprint end?
by our secret columnist in Brussels
Accession talks with Turkey and Iceland are desultory and no other country is anywhere near the frame. For this relief, much thanks - the EU has enough on its hands already, says our resident satirist Schadenfreude, without welcoming the likes of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine into the European club
Although there is talk about the further enlargement of the European Union, it is contained in a bubble of hot air. The stages in the enlargement process are: application; candidacy on the basis that membership is conceivable; "screening", the elongated process of aligning the candidate with the conditions of membership; conclusion, in which the European Council endorses membership; parliamentary ratification all round, some with public referendums; during this stage "interim" participation in some of the work of the EU; membership. It all takes years.
Norway went through the whole process, twice, and both times decided to stay out. It prefers to take its own decisions on energy, the environment and natural resources like fish. It is unlikely to apply again, ever. Switzerland applied for membership in 1992, but later in the year a referendum on joining the European Economic Area was lost. The Swiss are happy to accommodate international organisations, but are allergic to joining them. Switzerland suspended its application and replaced it with "bilateral" agreements, acting as a principal - not as a supplicant. Membership is not in prospect, although the Swiss are said to be overhauling their application. Morocco applied once, but was told that it was not European.
The improbable group of "possible" members is found in the EU's "Eastern Partnership" - embracing Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The European Commission talks to them individually under various programmes. Realistically and materialistically, they have little to offer except instability and mutual hostilities. Armenia has pulled out of the Eurovision songfest in Azerbaijan, last year's winner. They have a territorial dispute. Membership is decades away, if ever. It would need a separate negotiation, with sweeteners, with the Russians, who see themselves as the power in that part of the land. They cannot be expected to look benevolently on an eastward match of the EU. But calm down Vladimir Putin, it will not happen.
Albania applied for membership but, with deep internal political problems, was not given candidate status. Kosovo is expected to apply. There are problems about the recognition of its statehood. Meanwhile, no movement. Macedonia and Montenegro are candidates, but accession negotiations have not been opened. Bosnia-Hercegovina has not applied. The only surprise would be if it agreed on anything. The country is a legacy of the Dayton Agreement of 1995. It is schizoid, with the Republika Sirspska in the north (Serbians), divided by an "Entity Boundary Line" from the "Federation of Bosania and Hercegovina"" in the south - itself an amalgam of Bosniaks (formerly residents of Serbia) and (Muslim) Croats. It is enough to make the Schleswig Holstein question seem like a piece of cake.
Croatia and Slovenia already belong. Serbia is joining. Negotiations with Turkey move at deliberate speed. Iceland, a member of the European Economic Area, applied in 2009, after a narrowly won vote in the Icelandic Parliament. It was accepted as a candidate and talks were opened. They hang fire because of the dispute between Iceland on the one hand and the United Kingdom and the Netherlands on the other - over liability for guaranteeing deposits in the collapsed Landsbanki. Iceland was furious at Britain for using anti-terrorist legislation to seize the bank's British assets. Other issues in the talks are fisheries rights, one of Iceland's major assets and whale hunts - which the EU would prefer to ban. No early progress.
An independent Scotland would have to apply for membership. One of the obligations which new members must accept is the adoption of the euro. The Scots would need to seek a derogation if, as their chief minister has said, they want to be in currency union with the UK. It is too early to speculate on all the problems and outcomes. There is no enlargement overload. Accession talks with Turkey and Iceland are desultory. No other country is anywhere near the frame. For this relief, much thanks. The EU has enough on its hands already.
EU enlargement 'part of solution to economic crisis'
Continuing to expand the EU's borders by admitting new countries is part of the solution to the region's economic crisis, Stefan Füle said yesterday – as he urged membership candidates to overcome so-called 'enlargement fatigue'
You may probably know about the Schleswig Holstein, but you understand nothing about Bosnia, and you did not spell one single name right.
"Croatia and Slovenia already belong. Serbia is joining". Are you serious? Go find some other topic to focus upon, it's better.