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A successful enlargement of the EU! How to avoid having the Copenhagen Summit go down in history as a missed opportunity – Franck Biancheri, 2002

While France and Germany celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, and the European Commission is lulling towards a rapid enlargement to the Balkans, it is good to re-read the recommendations of Franck Biancheri made in December 2002 on the occasion the Copenhagen Summit (which ratified the accession of ten new members on 1 May 2004 to Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia).

“Everybody wants to have a successful enlargement whereas it  is a successful enlarged EU which is important”, wrote Franck Biancheri in 2002

Fifteen years later what can we say and how can we be prepared for this new Europe of 2020, which should see the Balkans join the ranks?

Some very short recommendations on how not to fail in Copenhagen (I), followed by a long analysis of the reality of the Enlargement process today (II)

I. Some methodological and operational advises to succeed in Copenhagen

The following recommendations, in the line of the ‘three scenarios for Enlargement’ published by Europe 2020 in November 2001 and of the “Europe 2020 vision” project, launched in June 2002, are based on the intention to ensure the continuity of the EU and its continued democratisation (both objectives being very closely linked).

These recommendations aim at avoiding that a new European opportunity affects, in the EU as well as in the candidate countries, the support of public opinion to the EU project.

The strategy of ignoring the great contradictions, which will emerge in Copenhagen, under the  pretext that they will be solved by the pressure of time, s howed the limits of its efficiency in  Nice or rather in its devastating effect on the public opinion.

We should therefore try and anticipate, and imagine a constructive approach in order to avoid Copenhagen to be remembered as the summit of confusion and  conflict.

Here below, are some short proposals. The rest of the document focuses on a more  detailed  presentation of the analyses on which the proposals are based:

  1. The  Copenhagen  summit  should  not  be  considered  as  THE  historic  moment  of  the  Enlargement  pr ocess,  but  as  a  vital  step  of  a  longer – duration  process.  The  European  leaders  could  usefully  remind  their  colleagues,  especially  the  Commission,  not  to  misuse the term ‘historic”.
  2. The duality of the summit should be dealt with openly, publicly: announcemen t impact  and  long  duration  of  the  process.  Therefore,  the  importance  of  the  announcement  should be underlined (the EU opens its doors to 10 new countries in the coming years)  and it should be stated that it highlights the European leaders’ political commit ment to  convince  their  citizens  of  the  validity  of  this  decision,  as  well  as  the  political  commitment  of  the  candidate  country  leaders  to  do  the  same.  The  parallelism  of  the  two situations should be strongly underlined. In  a  symbolic  way,  in  order  to  prove   the  fact  that  the  two  Europe  have  now  one  common future, the status of the candidate country representatives and that of the EU  representatives at the Convention on the Future of Europe should be equalised.
  3. In  parallel,  it  should  be  insisted  upon  that  en largement  is  one  step  of  a  long  process  leading to an enlarged EU, a process which includes numerous technical stages and a  reform of the EU institutional system. It is therefore impossible to fix a date, like June  2004, for its institutional conclusion. T his has to be said or the EU public opinion will  be  flabbergasted  to  learn  this  (even  countries,  like  the  Netherlands,  which  have  communicated   on   Enlargement   have   realised   that).   Ratifications   are   long   and  uncertain  procedures,  and  the  ratification  period  starting  now  might  well  only  end  in  2006 (date of the new financial package). It is vital that the internal discussions on the  financing  and  on  EU  policies  (budget,  CAP,  regional  funds,  UK  check)  are  finalised  before any operational enlargement takes place.
  4. If  the  new  Member  States  miss  the  European  elections  of  2004,  this  should  not  be  a  problem.  They  will  be  able,  as  they  choose,  to  send  members  of  their  national  parliament  in the  meantime, or to organise elections when they are entirely admitted.  Democra cy  deserves  that  time  is  taken  to  prepare  and  inform  correctly  the  public  opinion  on  what  they  are  asked  to  vote  about.  Currently,  nobody  in  the  candidate  countries knows what the European parliament is.

In  summary,  three  important  points  should  be  kept  i n  mind  in  order  to  avoid  Copenhagen  becoming a synonym of Maastricht or Nice for the public opinion (which is not very positive)

A. Symbolise clearly that a step is taken towards a now common future

B. State  openly  that  succeeding  in  an  enlarged  Europe  is  a  len gthy  process  (replacing   ‘enlargement’   with   ‘enlarged   Europe’   could   be   opportune   in  Copenhagen)

C. Disconnect  entirely  the  enlargement  process  from  the  European  elections  in  June 2004, explaining that the process could take up to 2006.

An  approach  of  the  summ it  aiming  at  turning  it  at  all  price  into  “THE”  summit  which  will  lead to the participation of the candidate countries in 100% of the EU, including its  political  dimension, will fail, at two levels:

. In the EU public opinion because the citizens (who ignore, for 90% of them, the enlargement calendar) will not understand this haste and will take even more distance with the EU system;

. In  the  candidate country public opinion because this calendar is not realist and this will reinforce the defiance towards the EU.

We should keep in mind that if  ever we can have the feeling to come close to a moment of ‘history’, history alone decides if the moment has been a success or a failure. We should therefore be prudent.

II. What is the enlargement process today?

∴ A semantic confusion first: everybody wants to have a successful enlargement whereas it  is a successful enlarged EU which is important.

The enlargement is a technocratic tool which is supposed to lead to an enlarged EU. It is a  moment in  time  –  a passage. But not a goal. The objective is therefore an enlarged Europe, and not enlargement.

Similarly, the German reunification was  not a goal as such;  it  is to make reunified Germany  alive  which  is one.  Everybody  agrees that would the German unification  process  have  been  more progressive, the problems between Ossies and Wessis would have been less serious than  they  are  now,  and  the  same  applies  for  the  costs  of  this  reunification.  We  should  admit  that  Germany,  amidst  the  almost  obvious  hostility  of  the  Fr ench  and  the  British  and  the  fear  of  seeing  the  ‘hard’  people  coming  back  in  Moscow,  did  not  have  a  lot  of  choice  and  had  eventually to take the risk.

However, for what interests us now, we, Europeans (Eastern and Western), have to be honest  about  it,  the re  is  absolutely  no  emergency.  The  Russians  do  not  intend  to  re – occupy  Central  and  Eastern  Europe.  The  Turks  won’t  invade  Vienna.  The  anti – capitalism  or  anti – EU  revolution  is  not  growing  in  the  streets  of  Warsaw  or  Budapest.  There  won’t  be  any  revolt  tomor row in  Prague or Bratislava if the Enlargement process is postponed for 2 or 3 years.  The  anti – East  European  feeling  does  not  grow  in  the  EU  streets,  requiring  a  rapid  action.  Nothing of this exits.

In conclusion: there is no objective reason to rush. And  all those who are excited about the so – called ‘historic opportunity which should not be missed” are generally those who did not see  coming the fall of the Berlin wall, nor the gap between public opinion and the EU project, nor  the political rise of the ex tremes…!

So let us take away the stress from the Copenhagen summit

We should therefore take the Copenhagen summit easy. We should stop making speeches  which are as emphatic as they are empty proclaiming the Historic event, the emergency of  History etc.

In  1990,  I  wrote  an  article  explaining  what  I  called  “the  moral  obligation”  that  was  the  integration  into  EU  of  Central  and  Eastern  European  countries.  This  caused  me  a  friendly  and  encouraging word from Edgar Morin, who used to read our productions, but ma inly more  than  sceptical  reactions  on  the  relevance  and  the  feasibility  of  such  a  thing.  It  was  the  prevailing feeling at the time.

Since  1990,  I  have  had  the  opportunity  to take  part  in  many  conferences  all  over  the  CEEC  zone,  with  very  different  audience s  (civil  servants,  journalists,  students,  teachers,  NGOs,  business…) on the issue of our common European future, on the EU, etc… Often, to remind  people  that  enlargement  was  firstly  a  political  process  and  not  an  economic  one,  as  the  EU  wanted us to believe.

In  parallel,  the  idea  of  Enlargement  being  something  feasible,  then  desirable,  became  the  dominant idea in the EU system, culminating recently with the ‘historicism” of the majority of  the European leaders and of the Commission: “ history has chosen De cember 2004 to make of  Enlargement  a  success”.  All  those  who  think  differently  are  therefore  against  History  !  For  Eastern Europeans, this might remind them of bad memories. Not surprising, then, to see the  support to the EU reducing regularly: our  leaders , and the Commission,  first, talk  exactly as  the leaders of the former Communist block used to talk.

And it is not the recent resignation of Poland’s promotion manager for the “Yes to the EU” in  his  country,  because  of  the  revelation  of  his  past  as  KGB  m ember,  which  will  change  this  feeling.

So then, why should this summit be, at all costs, ‘HISTORIC’

Because some forces or interest groups have very good reasons to try and make everybody  believe in it.

Nowadays, in the candidate countries, the people whi ch are the most in favour of the quickest  possible enlargement, are often, on one hand, former apparatchiks who find in the EU system  an environment very similar to the now disappeared communist bureaucracies, and on the  other hand, civil servants in charg e of negotiating and impatient to get into the Commission  (and in other Community institutions) and to earn salaries 10 times higher than their own. It is  therefore easier to understand their impatience. I have discussed this issue last year with civil  ser vants in all the capitals of Central and Eastern Europe and the majority of them admit that  it is an important element in the “emergency” feeling.

The other categories of people (and this is proved by independent polls and debates with the  public) are not  in a hurry and would favour a progressive and slow process (they have had  their lot of brutal changes since 1989);  including the youngsters and the students who really  don’t see where the problem lies in waiting 2/4 years more. The impatience is therefore  not  that of the people (and of History), but that of some minorities, hoping to gain direct and  immediate benefits from a rapid accession to the EU. They don’t represent the majority of  public opinion, far from it, but unfortunately they are strategically  positioned in the  negotiation process.

The  political  leaders  should  also  be  counted  as  part  of  this  group.  In  Eastern  as  well  as  Western Europe, a lot of them  want their names to be linked to an historic event. Since they  won’t  mark  Europe  with  their  indi vidual  actions,  they  believe  that  a  group  picture  will  compensate.  In   Central  and  Eastern  Europe,  they  also  think  that  they  will  win  the  next  elections if they manage to ‘get’ their country into the EU. I wouldn’t bet on this, but they do  believe it.

However, this is only the ‘surface’ of the process, so to speak. The serious issues are prepared  and dealt with by experts and technocrats; reports, chapters, the acquis communautaire…  They know why Copenhagen is THE date and why History has chosen such a date.

But it is not the case! Enlargement has not been prepared in  such a serious  manner even  if  a  lot  of  technocrats  and  experts  have  been  working  on  this  theme  for  the  last  10  years.  This  situation is essentially the result of the increasing malfunctioni ng of the EU system for about  10 years.

The  measurement  tool  of  History  that  is  used  by  our  experts  in  ‘historic  events’  –   the  ‘historimeter”  –     is  based  on  the  acquis  communautaire  and  the  39  chapters  to  be  closed  in  order to be considered as “ready to jo in the EU”. This “historimeter” is bent and only shows  what  its  manipulators  want  it  to  show.  Each  chapter  is  in  fact  negotiated  between  the  Commission  and  the  candidate  country  concerned.  One  only   needs  to  know  that  the  Commission considers that even the  contents of its own annual financial and budgetary report  is  subject to negotiation, to understand that the closure of enlargement chapters only reflects  the will or the lack thereof to make progress: only in rare cases does it reflect the reality of the a dvancement of the file as such. One only needs to visit the candidate countries and to discuss  with  the  persons  in  charge  to  realise  that  the  so – called  ‘closed’  chapters  do  not  correspond  much to reality. But who cares about reality, History cannot wait! E xperts and technocrats are  there to serve it.

The 5 forces which lead the Copenhagen summit to be a “Historic” event

If  it  is  not  them,  there  must  be  a  force  pushing  towards  this  date,  and  this  urgency.  Indeed,  there  are  5  of  them.  Two  are  legitimate  (si nce  they  are  based  on  convictions)  and  three  are  illegitimate  (since  they  are  based  on  conformism  or  on  a  goal  in  opposition  with  the  democratic principle):

Legitimate :  These  two  forces  see  the  European  construction  as  the  rising  of  a  large  economic  and  p eaceful  area,  without  any  real  political  dimension  (this  is  a  possible  choice,  although it cannot be a political destiny, but this is another debate): As  part  of  this  internal,  powerful  force,  there  is  the  dominant  part  of  the  British  and  Scandinavian  elit es  (the  Netherlands  are  more  divided  on  this  issue)  and  several  major  economic actors.

The external and very powerful force is the United States

–  Illegitimate :

. an enormous inertia in the bureaucratic system of the EU where politicians have renounced. It  is  foreseen  like  this  and  we  will  therefore  do  it  like  this,  even  if  each  European  politician  you can meet will tell you that this is “nonsense” ; but, in public, at work, he/she will continue  to state the opposite… In order not to deceive History and  to avoid standing out.

. as illegitimate as inertia, we find the “finer feelings” , since it is “nicer” to say “join us now” than “join us later”. A lot of journalists, political leaders, associations, find it difficult to di ffer  from this irresponsible bu t “nice” attitude.

. the third  illegitimate  force, and this one  is obscure and  based on  voluntarism, comes  from  the  willingness  of  an  ultra – bureaucratic  part  of  the  EU  system  to oppose  to  EU’s  increasing  democratic  aspirations  and  to  push  the  EU  into  a b rutal  enlargement,  making  the  EU  such  a  complex system that only technocrats would be able to understand it. The objective there is to  dissolve  EU  democratization  into  a  badly  prepared  enlargement  in  order  to  preserve  their  powers.

This is  why Copenhagen  must make, must be History ! A mix of dupery, intellectual laziness,  conformism, direct interest of a minority of actors, and irresponsibility of the majority of the  political leaders. In any case, they won’t be there for long to manage the enlarged Europe ! A  picture taken at the right moment suffices to make them happy.

This is a pity, since currently, in the coming weeks, the politician or politicians who will dare  to say differently and be sincere about Enlargement and the enlarged Europe, will be happi ly  surprised  to  match  the  public  opinions  (and  the  majority  of  their  colleagues  who  think  the  same  but  hope  secretly  that  the  Irish  will  refuse  again  the  Nice  Treaty).  It  seems  to  me  that  this would be the real meeting with History: preventing the flock fr om jumping into the abyss.

The big problem of the Copenhagen Summit is not the candidate countries but the  European Union.

5  or  6  years  ago,  a  lot  of  people  honestly  believed  that  December  2002  could  have  been  a  realistic  date.  Especially  because,  as  eve rybody  knows  (and  this  is  the  reason  why  nobody  dares  to  criticize  openly  the  masquerade  of  closing  chapters,  which  gives  food  to  meetings  and newspapers), within the enlargement, what counts is not really the candidate countries but  the  internal  balances  within  the  EU  and  the  reshaping  of  the  EU  system  which  is  now  obsolete.

The problem  is that the EU has not done a thing during the  last 10 years to solve  its  internal  problems.  Focused  on  the  Euro,  launched  by  leaders  of  the  previous  generation,  the  curre nt  European political leaders and the EU technocrats only manage,  dealing with one crisis after  another (mad cow disease, resignation of the commissioners, etc), a mechanism created in the  50s which is too old and which they don’t know how to repair or re place.

The  result  is  that  the  EU  is  the  one  who  is  not  ready  for  the  Historic  moment.  The Convention,  launched  in  a  hurry  after  the  Nice  Summit  is  not  supposed  to  come  with  a  solution  to  this  internal  disorder  before  2003  at  the  earliest  (if  it  manages  to   produce  a  text  which  will  then  be  adopted  by  the  Member  States,  and  which  won’t  be  rejected  by  the  citizens,   less  and   less  docile  about  European   matters)  –   a  disorder  which   would   be  considerably amplified by the accession of 10 new Members.  According to  the “reality” principle, one should have postponed the date to give to the EU the  time to reorganize itself.

But no! Cleverly using the Eastern fear of a continuous postponing, the forces present behind the ‘historic’ nature of December 2002 have convinced everybody (or almost) that, thanks to the miracle of the European construction, solutions to the internal disorder will come up naturally from the crisis. However, “In God we trust” is the American motto, not a European one.

2002, 2004 or 2006 …  after all, does it matter ?

Everything considered, what difference does it make? 2002, 2004 or 2006, it is almost all the  same.

Well, not exactly, when one is concerned by the EU democratisation on one hand and by the  continuity of the EU project on the ot her hand.

A rapid enlargement, according to the official calendar, i.e. almost without any preparation on  the  EU  side,  will  lead  to  European  elections  in  2004  which  will  see  the  arrival  of  extreme  parties in the European Parliament, reinforced by the ext reme or ultra – nationalist parties of the  candidate   countries   where   nobody   even   knows   about   the   existence   of   the   European  Parliament (in these countries, the campaign will necessarily be very short and badly prepared  since  they  won’t  know  before  the  final  r atification  within  the  EU  whether  or  not  they  can  participate).  Within  the  EU,  given  the  low  support of  public  opinion  to  a  rapid  enlargement  (including  in  countries  where  the  governments  are  well  aware  of  the  issue),  the  European  elections  will  be  another   opportunity  for  a  “sanction  vote”  and  for  a  rejection  by  citizens,  faced once again with a fait accompli.

Giving  the  process  time  up  to  2006  and  most  importantly  not  forcing  the  process  for  June  2004  can  make  the  difference  between  the  failure  or  the  po litical  success  of  an  enlarged  Europe.

If  we  keep  2004  as  the  target  date,  these  trends  will  reinforce  the  extreme  difficulty  which  already  exists  in  the  definition  of  a  new,  efficient  and  democratic  EU  system,  since  the  discussions  on  this  topic  are  pois oned  by  the  consequences  of  Copenhagen  on  Enlargement  (and  the  other  policies  indirectly  linked  to  it).  There  won’t  be  a  sudden  burst  of  energy,  as  some might hope, since none took place for the last ten years and since the current leaders are  not motivate d to provoke any. Over the last few years, the European construction has not been  part of  a  positive  movement. Even  if  the  fatigue  of  the  actors  gives  the  Convention  room  to  manoeuvre, since they will be tempted to adopt any project which is even vaguely c oherent.

Finally, a rapid enlargement would certainly speed-up the autonomisation of the EuroLand, which, due to its strong constraints, cannot work within a chaotic EU, and will create its own rules in an increasing number of sectors. By deciding to proceed more rapidly, we will put the Central and Eastern European Countries, this time for an indefinite duration, in a European “second gear”. Is it really what candidate countries want?

Franck Biancheri – 14/10/2002 – How to avoid having the Copenhagen Summit go down in history as a missed opportunity: the successful enlargement of the European Union! 

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