AGAINST EU Enlargement

FOR EU Enlargement


The EU is full to bursting point. With 28 members the Union is already teetering on the brink of institutional gridlock. Any more would overload the system making effective decision-making impossible and turning the EU into an ineffectual mini-UN. Nor can the EU afford to expand. Apart from Iceland, all the potential candidates would place a huge strain on EU budgets. Rich members like Germany can’t afford to pay for the likes of Turkey and Montenegro. Poorer members don’t want the competition for EU structural funds.


According to its treaty, the EU is based on “freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Shutting the door on European nations that share that commitment smacks of hypocrisy and undermines the EU’s credibility as it seeks to defend those values elsewhere in the world. Most candidates are part of a common European family shut out due by historical injustices. Once they meet democratic and economic criteria, the EU has a moral obligation to let them in.


Successive enlargements have diluted the aims of the EU’s founding fathers. Ever wider Europe has replaced ever greater union. The larger the EU becomes, the less likely it is to develop into a true political union. It’s no coincidence the British, whose vision of the EU is a little more than a free-trade zone, are the biggest apologists for enlargement. It’s time to draw a line and rebuild the EU around core nations who really believe in the Union. If not, where do we stop: Israel, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Cape Verde?


Enlargement has been the EU’s most successful foreign policy tool. The lure of membership kept Central and Eastern Europe on the path of peace and democracy. Without it, historical demons could easily have re-appeared. The enlargement policy can export stability, democracy and economic well-being into a potentially disruptive neighbourhood. Shutting the door on the Balkans, Ukraine, Turkey or others in the East will creating a permanent arc of unrest on Europe’s eastern flank.


Recent enlargements were already a step too far. Romania and Bulgaria clearly do not meet EU standards on issues like corruption; Orban’s activities reveal the immaturity of Hungarian democracy; Euro-skeptics in Prague and Warsaw have held Europe back. Western nations have been flooded with cheap labour, while the newcomers’ low labour standards and unfair taxes have sucked investment Eastward. Future enlargements would be even worse. The Balkans is plagued with ethnic and territorial disputes; Ukraine’s membership would bring the EU into conflict with Russia; Turkey is sliding backwards and risks undoing years of reform.


We live in a world of emerging superpowers. A bigger EU will be better placed to make its voice and its values respected. Strategically important countries like Turkey with its 75 million people and dynamic economy, and an industrial powerhouse like Ukraine (45 million) will bring a huge power boost to Europe. Turned away, Turkey could emerge as a rival; while countries like Ukraine and Serbia could slip into Russia’s embrace.


These countries are not ready for EU membership. Their economies would not survive the competition and they would become dependent on the West. Did Balkan countries struggle to break free from Yugoslavia only to see their national independence surrendered to Brussels? Ukraine would be better off with its natural ally to the East. Turkey does not want Western values imposed on its culture – its future lies as a regional power in the Middle East.


Successive enlargements have enriched and invigorated the European Union. Nordic countries brought traditions of openness, social justice and environmental awareness; newly free nations in Southern and Eastern Europe reminded jaded older members of the value of democracy. For the EU to remain dynamic it must remain open. Enlargement adds to the cultural diversity that is Europe’s greatest treasure. Sarajevo, Kiev, Istanbul and Belgrade are great European cities that belong in the EU.