Philippe de Buck, Secretary-General of UNICE

Enlargement should countinue after the current
round, but the EU should put in place institutional
arrangements which will allow it to act effectively and without
undue delay, says Philippe de Buck, Secretary-General of
UNICE.

Should there be another enlargement
after the current round?

Yes. Negotiations are
underway with Romania and Bulgaria and other
countries have expressed their willingness to
join European Union. It is important not to
forget the contribution that European
integration has made to peace and in some cases
to the development of democracy. The successive
wave of enlargement has also generated more
prosperity for old and new members alike.

Where are the borders of
Europe?

It is a difficult question.
I don’t think that the borders of Europe are
pre-determined. What really matters are the
shared values political, social, economic and a
strong willingness to work together for the
common good of all European citizens.

What reforms are necessary to support
these enlargement waves?

Some of the machinery for
governance of the European Union is creaky. The
Treaty of Nice failed to tackle the
institutional problems faced by a growing
community of nations. It is essential to have
well functioning & efficient institutions.
The unanimity rule for decision-making already
makes progress difficult in some areas with
fifteen Member States. This situation will not
improve when there are twenty-five or more.
Business believes that there should be more
qualified majority voting in many areas, but
that the scope for competition between states
in the fields of taxation and employment policy
should be maintained via unanimity voting.

How likely is it that these reforms
will happen?

They have to, or Europe runs
the risk of grinding to a halt. The Convention
on the Future of Europe and the subsequent
Intergovernmental Conference must put in place
institutional arrangements which allow the
European Union to act effectively and without
undue delay. UNICE contributes actively to that
end in the Convention process underway.

How will the new Member States change
the EU?

The European Union is a club
whose members all have different histories and
different traditions. This diversity is a major
asset. Any change in the membership of the club
is bound to change its overall complexion in
subtle ways. The important thing is that
everybody should apply the same rules as evenly
as possible.

How realistic is it to expect that
Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU in
2007?

Both countries have made
good progress over the last decade, but are
still deemed to be not yet ready for accession.
Rather than make predictions, I would like to
spell out the main conditions that UNICE
regards as essential when a new accession is
under consideration: membership should be based
on the merits of the application in question,
and the country must be in a position and have
in place the administrative means to apply the
acquis communautaire from the first day.

Could Croatia catch up with
them?

There is no reason why
Croatia shouldn’t catch up with the current
acceding countries. Indeed, one of the other
former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia, will be in
the European Union as early as next year. I
repeat: the important thing is that all the
criteria are met in full within an appropriate
calendar.

Is it possible to start accession
negotiations with Turkey next year seeing
that its army is occupying the north of
Cyprus, an EU Member State from 1 May
2004?

A window of opportunity for
solving the Cyprus problem seems to have been
missed. This is a pity, but it is to be hoped
that there will be other opportunities in the
not too distant future, and that all sides will
demonstrate goodwill and flexibility. With
regard to accession negotiations with Turkey,
the main issue for business is whether the
country has undertaken the necessary reforms
and is ready in terms of all the criteria. We
hope that, by December 2004, the reforms will
be completed in Turkey and the EU will be able
to move forwards with negotiations.

Should countries such as Ukraine and
Russia have the prospect of EU membership in
the more distant future?

The countries of the former
Soviet Union have moved at different speeds in
implementing reforms and instituting a market
economy. There is still a long way to go – to
bring them closer to the European Union, the
European Commission is offering them a common
area of free move of persons, goods, capital
& services in return of concrete progress.
This is an interesting proposal, let’s see how
it will develop.

Will enlargement make the EU
externally and internally stronger or
weaker?

On the condition that the
proper circumstances are met both in the
acceding countries & in the European Union,
there can be no doubt that enlargement will
make the European Union stronger internally, as
a result of increased trade and investment
between old and new members. This should also
have the effect of making the EU stronger
externally, in economic terms at least. Whether
or not the European Union gains a stronger and
more unified voice on the international stage
will depend however on how well the
Intergovernmental Conference succeeds in
setting in place institutions able to cape with
the new challenges of the enlarged union.

 

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