The enlargement of the European Union
Europe at the service of peace and democracy
Community Europe has celebrated its 50th anniversary.
On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman made history by putting to the Federal
Republic of Germany, and to the other European countries, the idea of
creating a Community of pacific interests. He began a completely new
process in international relations by proposing to old nations to together
recover, by exercising jointly their sovereignty, the influence which each
of them was incapable of exercising alone.
The construction of Europe has since then moved forward every day. It
represents the most significant undertaking of the 20th century and a new
hope at the dawn of the new century. It derives its momentum from the far-
sighted and ambitious project of the founding fathers who emerged from the
second world war driven by the resolve to establish between the peoples of
Europe the conditions for a lasting peace.
A historic success
As Europe approaches the dawn of the third millennium, a look back over
the 50 years of progress towards European integration shows that the
European Union is a historic success. Countries which were hitherto
enemies, today share a common currency, the euro, and manage their economic
and commercial interests within the framework of joint institutions.
Europeans now settle their differences through peaceful means, applying
the rule of law and seeking conciliation. The spirit of superiority and
discrimination has been banished from relationships between the Member
States, which have entrusted to the four Community institutions, the
Council, the Parliament, Commission and the Court of Justice, the
responsibility for mediating their conflicts, for defining the general
interest of Europeans and for pursuing common policies.
Economic integration every day highlights the need for and takes people
closer to political union. At international level, the European Union is
wielding increasing influence commensurate with its economic importance,
the standard of living of its citizens, its place in diplomatic, commercial
and monetary forums.
The European Community derives its strength from common values of
democracy and human rights, which rally its peoples, and it has preserved
the diversity of cultures and languages and the traditions which make it
what it is. Its transatlantic solidarity and the attractiveness of its
model has enabled a united Europe to withstand the pressure of
totalitarianism and to consolidate the rule of law.
The European Community stands as a beacon for the expectations of
countries near and far which watch the Union’s progress with interest as
they seek to consolidate their re-emerging democracies or rebuild a ruined
Today, the Union of the 15 Member States is negotiating the next wave of
membership with 10 countries of central and eastern Europe, and with Malta
and Cyprus. At a later stage, other countries of former Yugoslavia or which
belong to the European sphere will in turn ask to join. The taking on board
by the applicant countries of the acquis communautaire, and more generally
of the major objectives of the European Union, is central to enlargement
negotiations. For the first time in its long history, the continent is
preparing to become reunified in peace and freedom.
Such developments are momentous in terms of world balance and will have a
huge impact on Europe’s relations with the United States, Russia, Asia and
The key dates of the European Enlargement
1945 – After the Second World War Europe was destroyed. The main problems
facing european states were security and economic reconsrtruction.
That’s where the discussion on any integration of Europe started. The
ideas of Kudenhove-Calergi were recollected.
1950 – R. Schuman proposed to pool coal and steel resources of France and
1951 – The Paris treaty was signed: France, the Federal Republic of
Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg established the
European Coal and Steel Community. This organization could regulate the
European market. It was the first step of European integration and in
terms of the enlargement – it was the original platform to enlarge.
1961 – Ten years later, after the EEC and the Euroatom were created (1957),
the UK – the leader of EFTA (1960) – applied to enter the EEC.
1963, 1965 – the situation was not that favourable for the UK. On the
initiative of De Gaulle, the French leader at that moment, France twice
vetoed the UK’s accession to the Community.
1967 – A new application for Community membership from the UK (the fourth
attempt), Denmark and Ireland.
1972 – Here we have the first enlargement: The Treaty on the accession of
Denmark, Ireland, Norway, the UK was signed in Brussels. In Denmark and
Norway the referendums were hold and Norwegian people decided not to
join the Community (they will change their mind only in 1996). So, in
1973 the agreement on accession entered in force only for three
applicants: the UK, Denmark and Ireland.
1973 – Greece applied to enter the Community. During the 70-ties the EC was
discussing the situation with Mediterranean states. Greece, spain and
Portugal were not able to join the Community because of dictatural
governments ruling there.
1981 – Finally, after the dictature collapsed, Greece entered the EC.
1986 – Five years later Spain and Portugal joined the Community.
1993 – After a long pause the enlargement was continued – the negotiations
on Austria, Sweden and Finland accession were opened.
Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the European Community
quickly established diplomatic relations with the countries of central
Europe. During the 1990s, the European Community and its Member States
progressively concluded Association Agreements, so called 'Europe
Agreements', with ten countries of central Europe. The Europe Agreements
provide the legal basis for bilateral relations between these countries and
the EU. The European Community had already established similar Association
Agreements with Turkey (1963), Malta (1970) and Cyprus (1972). In the case
of Turkey, a Customs Union entered into force in December 1995.
1995 – Sweden, Finland and Austria joined the European Union.
1996 – Malta applied to enter the EU. This application was soon frozen till
1997 – At its summit in Luxembourg in December 1997, the European Council
decided that the enlargement process should encompass:
. the European Conference, a multilateral framework bringing together
ten central European countries, Cyprus and Turkey, which was launched
on 12 March 1998;
. the accession process, covering ten central European countries and
Cyprus, which was launched on 30 March 1998;
. the accession negotiations, which the European Council decided to
open on 31 March 1998 with six countries, as recommended by the
European Commission: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary,
Poland and Slovenia.
1998 – Malta reactivated its application for Community membership made in
1998 – The EU formally launched the process that will make enlargement
possible. It embraces the following thirteen applicant countries:
Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and
1999 – The Commission adopted its reports and a general composite paper on
the progress made by each of the candidate countries (ten central
European countries, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey) towards accession. They
show that all countries except Turkey fulfil the political criteria for
accession and that only Cyprus and Malta fully meet the economic
criteria. Based on these regular reports, the Commission has
recommended to open negotiations with Malta, Latvia, Lithuania,
Slovakia and also with Bulgaria and Romania but subject to certain
conditions for the latter two. The Commission has also recommended to
conduct accession negotiations through a differentiated approach taking
account of the progress made by each candidate.
1999 – A new institutional process was put in train by the decision taken
by the European Council meeting in Helsinki to convene an
intergovernmental conference with the aim inter alia of adapting the
treaties to the conditions whereby a Union enlarged to over 20 members
can function smoothly.
2000 – Negotiations with Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and
Malta on the conditions for their entry into the Union and the ensuing
Treaty adjustments started. As for Turkey — The European Council
welcomed recent positive developments in Turkey, as well as its
intention to continue its reforms towards complying with the Copenhagen
criteria. In doing so, Turkey is considered as a candidate State to
join the Union on the basis of the same criteria as applied to the
other candidate States.
December, 2000 – By agreeing — on a Treaty of Nice, the EU member states
also removed the last formal obstacle to moving ahead with the EU
enlargement process. The conclusions go on to say that «the time has
now come to lend fresh impetus to the process». The summit broadly
endorsed the enlargement strategy proposed by the Commission, and
emphasised «the principle of differentiation, based on each candidate
country's own merits», and «allowance of scope for catching up». The
road map for the next 18 months will ease the way for further
negotiations, bearing in mind that those countries which are the best
prepared will continue to be able to progress more quickly, the summit
Meanwhile, the summit expressed appreciation for the efforts made by
the candidates, and requested them «to continue and speed up the
necessary reforms to prepare themselves for accession, particularly as
regards strengthening their administrative capacity, so as to be able
to join the Union as soon as possible». And it welcomed the
establishment of economic and financial dialogue with the candidate
2003 – The Union has declared that it will be ready to welcome new
countries from the start of 2003.
The weighting of votes in the future council
The Treaty of Nice signed at the summit decided not only on voting rights
for the current fifteen member states, but also on the votes that the
candidates will have as they become member states. The full list is as
Germany, United Kingdom, France and Italy – 29
Spain and Poland – 27
Romania – 14
Netherlands – 13
Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal – 12
Sweden, Bulgaria, Austria – 10
Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania – 7
Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg – 4
Malta – 3
Total – 342
A qualified majority in the new voting system will be 255 (74.56%).
The enlargement facing the EU today poses a unique challenge, since it is
without precedent in terms of scope and diversity: the number of
candidates, the area (increase of 34%) and population (increase of 105
million), the wealth of different histories and cultures. Third countries
will significantly benefit from an enlarged Union.
The challenges of the future
After a half century of Community history, Europeans still have a lot of
soul-searching to do: How far could and should the Union be taken in order
to maximise the strength which derives from unity, without at the same time
eroding identity and destroying the individual ethos which makes the
richness of our nations, regions and cultures? Can they move forward in
step, thanks to the natural harmony which favours consensus between 15
countries, or should they recognise divergences of approach and
differentiate their pace of integration? What are the limits of Community
Europe, at a time when so many nations, starting with the new democracies
of central and eastern Europe and the Balkans, along with Turkey, are
asking to join the process of unification in progress? How can the people
of Europe get everyone involved in the Community undertaking and give them
the feeling of a European identity which complements and goes beyond
All these are questions of principle, fundamental questions the answers
to which will themselves determine the specific and technical matters
addressed daily by those who have the task of taking this Community