UK no longer advocates for EU enlargement


The UK used to be the greatest advocate of EU enlargement. But now its prime minister David Cameron wants to introduce new control mechanisms ​vis-à-vis future EU member countries. EurActiv Serbia contributed to this article. 

The United Kingdom, the historical advocate of an active EU enlargement policy, including towards Turkey, has shown a change of tone at yesterday's EU summit (20 December).

Even though he still sees enlargement as 'one of the EU’s greatest strengths', Cameron, who has called for a restriction on the EU’s freedom of movement principle ahead of the lifting of labour restrictions for Romanians and Bulgarians on 1 January 2014, wants to find new control mechanisms before new members can join.

This development may appear as a paradox. For many years, British governments have pushed for an EU enlargement that would gradually transform the Union into a loose federation of member states.

“As we contemplate countries like Serbia and Albania one day joining the EU we must find a way to slow down access to each other’s labour markets until we can be sure this will not cause vast migrations […] I look forward to find a way to continue with enlargement but in a way that regains the trust and support of our peoples,” Cameron said, speaking to the press in Brussels on Friday. 

On the eve of the EU summit, the largest British tabloid, The Sun, hijacked the Commission’s Berlaymont building walls to project an anti-immigration message thereby pressuring Cameron to toughen the tone, especially towards impoverished Eastern European countries, waiting in line to join the EU.

“When a new country joins, we have to look into what kind of transition controls we put in place. As I said […], it may be necessary to look at new mechanisms: percent of GDP, rates of wages, I don’t want to see what happened in the past,” he added, calling for a treaty change at the press conference.


But EU diplomatic sources claim this is just empty rhetoric.“If he was serious about changing the rules, the UK would have raised the question at the previous General Affairs Council, whose conclusions on enlargement Cameron endorsed. No other member state is raising this question in such a hysterical way. Enlargement policy is going on as it is without changes.”

Another EU source confirmed there had been no debate on this issue at the Council and that the “UK is isolated on the issue.”

“What Cameron said to the leaders is that he wants a discussion on this topic right before the next enlargement. That’s probably Montenegro in about five years’ time and Cameron will be gone by then. Believe me, comes summer we won’t even talk about this anymore. This is aimed at his domestic audience before 1 January,” he said, referring to the lifting of labour restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.

Negotiations with Serbia

The big “winner” of the EU’s timid progress on enlargement is Serbia, who will be starting EU accession negotiations on 21 January 2014, a date determined by the Greek presidency earlier this week. But Serbia’s accession path looks thorny.

Despite the EU leaders’ green light, Serbia’s normalisation of relations with its neighbour Kosovo is still being closely monitored, “so that Serbia and Kosovo can continue on their respective European paths, while avoiding that either can block the other in these efforts.”

Kosovo broke away from Serbia after the 1999 war and proclaimed its independence in 2008, which Belgrade still refuses to recognise.  An EU-facilitated dialogue started in 2011 and helped both countries smooth their relations.

Zoran Milanovic, the Prime Minister of the new EU member, Croatia, a former Yugoslav country who fought against Serbia in the early nineties, and whose country now has the power to veto Serbia’s EU membership, warned: “I expect Belgrade’s authorities to behave better on questions such as the heritage of war, minorities’ status […] We have not put barriers so far, we are we well-intentioned, and it is in our interest that Serbia becomes a member of the EU. But we all need to understand that the criteria in the EU are very demanding.”

Albania blocked

Tirana’s hopes to get a candidate status with the EU, a first step that precedes the start of the negotiations with the EU bloc, were also dashed.

The Dutch parliament announced prior to the Summit it would block Albania’s progress due to concerns about the level of corruption and organised crime in the country. But the Netherlands were not isolated in their move. The UK, Germany, France and Denmark also said the granting of candidate status to Albania was premature.

“We are not currently supporting a move to candidate status for Albania,” David Cameron confirmed, adding: “There are quite a lot of steps that need to be taken before candidate status would become appropriate. I think we should use these steps to encourage putting in place measures against corruption, organised crime, and in favour of rule of law.”

According to the Commission, Albania has delivered on EU requirements and should be granted the status of candidate country. However, decisions regarding enlargement can only be taken by consensus of the member states. 

Other enlargement countries include the tiny states of Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

The former is well on the way to becoming the next EU member state. The EU praised its progress in the reforms, although serious criticism regarding Podgorica’s “peculiar understanding of the rule of law” was voiced by foreign private investors on this website.

The two other countries are still far away from a serious breakthrough on their EU path and face many domestic challenges.


Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić called the decision for starting accession negotiations "historical", but also added that it is only "the end of a very difficult beginning". In his comments, he also described it as "the realization of the dreams of the whole generation".

Representatives of the strongest party in the Government, Progressive Party of Serbia (SNS), a coalition partner to Dačić’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), intensified discussion in public regarding eventual early elections that could be held at the same time as local elections in Belgrade, planned for 2014. It could mean that SNS plans to profit from the positive EU decision and very high popularity and take over powerful positions such as the one of the Prime Minister from its SPS coalition partner. On the other hand, party of the Dačić SPS doesn't support early elections, saying it would be waste of money and time, but also that all the efforts must be invested in the crucial issues for Serbia, including EU accession process.

The only europhobic party Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) deplores the Council's decision, saying the process is detrimental for Serbia, for both Serbian economy and territorial integrity. For improving Serbian economy vice president of the party Slobodan Samardžić proposes intensified cooperation with Russia and China, countries that he sees as friendly towards Serbia.

A curiosity is that DSS leader Vojislav Koštunica was the pro-European united opposition representative who in 2000 won elections against Slobodan Milošević, leader of the SPS. As the times passed, his nationalist party became eurosceptic, and then europhobic. For DSS, Kosovo remains in focus as it is not completely clarified how it will be treated during the accession talks, i.e. how will the chapter 35 dedicated to that issue look like. 

Libor Rouček, the Social-Democrats’ vice-president for enlargement and neighbourhood policies, said: “Our Group welcomes the Council's decision to start accession negotiations with Serbia in January. There can be no question that, given the historic steps toward normalisation of relations with Kosovo and the implementation of domestic reforms, Serbia fully deserves to move onto the next stage in the accession process."

"We are disappointed, however, by the Council's failure to send a clearer and more positive message to other Western Balkan countries."

"Albania, in particular, made significant progress in 2013, having adopted critical pieces of EU-related legislation and conducted smooth and transparent parliamentary elections. The Council's postponement of a decision on candidate status is a missed opportunity to help consolidate these gains. We encourage the Albanian government to maintain the current reform momentum, in particular in the fight against corruption and organised crime, to secure a positive decision on candidate status as soon as possible, paving the way for the opening of accession negotiations.

"Likewise, the S&D Group wishes to see the Council take a more forward-looking and constructive position on the opening of accession negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We therefore repeat our call for a swift and mutually acceptable solution to the name issue to unblock the country's accession process, while urging the government in Skopje not to use the issue as an excuse for backsliding on democratic reforms, notably media freedoms.

"To remain credible and truly transformative, enlargement policy requires sustained and unequivocal support by EU member states: the EU must be ready to honour its commitments as soon as the candidate and future candidate countries deliver. In 2014, it will be important that member states exercise strategic foresight and political courage to move the enlargement agenda forward in all Western Balkan countries".

  • 21 January 2014: First intergovernmental conference EU-Serbia
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Balkan Commedy 's picture

It is funny how all the Balkan's states try to show themselves better than one other, but the reality shows different.
(Don't get me wrong, so do the Western EU states, and the same applies to them, but this article emphasises Balkan)

Leaders try to coat the reality by boosting people's morale about stable economies, but what is real is that all of the economies in Balkan are on the edge of collapse.

If the Balkan states would have had flourishing economies, and would have in possession soft power, then they would have been not the ones at knocking at EU's door waiting like beggars for it to be open.

If their economies would have been stable it would have been EU knocking at their doors.

Anyhow, if going to EU is the latest trend that should be followed: May the biggest servile win.

Alberto Rodrigues 's picture

I am Alberto Rodrigues from the international foundation for research and innovation

strategics investors are leaving EU and go to invest in BRIC countries and some others emerget economies As EU had already more than 27 millions unemployed and more than 70 millions of others are receiving low salarie which do not cover their basics needs EU must wake up and make what is necessary in order to solve those priorities problems For this purpose he must
1) identify a list of business which can not be done in BRIC countries because they can not be as credible if they will be done in some Eu countries
2) Use his multicultural advantages to get trillions of euro from BRIC countries I will explain how in another post
3) Target digital science for mass and make conferences about how ordinary people can use digital science to solve different problems which are affecting them
4) Combine digital science conferences with multicultural touristics products Publish ebooks ,apps ,tools which must include apart of other things case study about how people can solve their priority problems using a force of digital science
5) Invest with priority in businesses which can bring more than 25 % in less than 75 days and create millions of jobs
5) Eu must recommend every country to solve his problems and valorify his economic potential For example EU tourism is not well valofified EU must creat business conferences and combine them with muticultural and adventure touristic products Like this EU tourism will be traget for those who have money and disponibility to spend them I will present more details about those issues

Alberto Rodrigues 's picture

As investors are leaving EU to go to invest in BRIC countries in order to compansate this EU must show a reality that demontrate that BRIC countries are going to become the most poluetted regions in the world As most investors do not want to live and invest in a pollueted country EU must promote businesses alternative which can be done in the less pollueted cities in the EU For example Liverpool ,Newcastele ,Viena ,Stockolm ,Helsinh are one of the less polluted cities in the world because of this EU must develop a conference industries and organize businesses evets which can be combined with ecologic touristic products They ca use themes as
""" Business which bring high profits in very short time and do not consume resourses and make pollution "" This is a very inteligent strategy which EU can use in order to compensate the investors exodus I am Alberto Rodigues from the international foundation for research and innovation i will present some more details about those issues in the next comments i will publish in Euroactiv

Alberto Rodrigues 's picture

how this can be possible
Iam Alberto Rodrigues from the International foundation for research and innovation In order to make you understand how EU can get trillions of EURO because of migrant trend i will give you a very pratical example
1) in order to make conferences about Businesses which can bring high profit in very short time without consuming resources and make polution ,i will prepare professionals from India ,Asia ,Africa ,Latin America ,Arab countries ,so theu can present 15 minutes conferences about this issue and also about digital protection for touristic industries businesses Digital protection for banking and financial businesses etc
In the same time i will prepare special art and entertainment momnets which will be presented by migrants from all those continents and refereded countries Durng the preparation of those events using a very genuiune digital platforme i will promote them in all those continents and refereded countries By this ocasion i will make photo and video which will be presented combined with science and tecnology contents in ebooks ,tools ,apps Using this strategy whe billions of people from all those places will know about those events and ebooks and after a certain time millions of people from those places will download those ebooks ,tools ,apps and like this EU will get after a certain tain trillions of euro ALL THIS WILL BE POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF THE MIGRANTS CONTRIBUTION AFTER I WILL TEACH THEM WHAT THEY WILL HAVE TO DO Starting from the moment i will implment this project concept countries which have a very low rate migration will pray for God to bring them more migrants and those which have a large number of migrants will thanks to GOD

Red2's picture

Further expansion of an experiment in its death throes is madness.