In his first address to the European Parliament as EU President, Finnish prime minister Vanhanen kept the door open for new countries to join the EU. A new poll indicates that an increasing number of EU citizens have a different view.
Prime Minister Vanhanen informed MEPs about the priorities of the Finnish Presidency on 5 July. He underlined once more that enlargement has been a “success story” for the EU and that the EU should remain open to take in other members. Under the Finnish Presidency, Bulgaria and Romania are set to receive their definitive accession date. Negotiations for future membership of Turkey and Croatia “will continue to move forward” and the Finns “will also support the Western Balkans’ European aspirations”, said the Finnish PM.
Although EU leaders continue to praise the “enlargement success story”, their populations are drifting in another direction. A new Eurobarometer to be presented today (6 July) indicates that opposition to further enlargement is increasing: 45% of EU citizens still support further expansion (-4% versus spring Eurobarometer) and 42% (+3%) rejects future enlargement. In Germany, France, Austria and Finland itself at least 6 in 10 respondents do not want to see the EU expand further.
Mr Vanhanen also referred to the discussion in the June Council about the “absorption capacity” of the EU. “I am very pleased that this was not set as a new accession criterion. No new criteria should be set for applicant countries but at the same time it is imperative that the existing ones be adhered to”, Vanhanen stated.