Impact of enlargement on EU institutions

The EU’s enlargement from 15 to 25 Member States
on 1 May 2004 carries significant implications for the
decision-making and the institutional architecture of the
Union. The first effects of enlargement have become manifest
when the EU institutions opened up for observers from the 10
future Member States in May 2003. The 10 future members now
have the right of attending Council meetings and having MEP
observers in the European Parliament until the time of
accession.

The biggest enlargement in the Union's
history requires a profound reform of its institutions,
which were conceived for the initial Community of six
Member States.

The Amsterdam Treaty of 1999 and the
Nice Treaty of 2003 have already introduced some
institutional changes to make the integration of up to 12
new Member States into the EU decision-making processes
possible. However, a more radical re form is necessary so
that the enlarged Union of 25 does not grind to a stop.

A new Constitutional Treaty, currently
under discussion within the European Convention, will
introduce further changes to the Union's institutional
architecture to prevent a paralysis of the decision-making
process. Under the current proposal by the Convention's
Praesidium (see

), new posts of a permanent president of the European
Council and an EU Foreign Minister would be created, the
six-month rotating EU Presidency would be abolished, the
size of the Commission would be reduced from 25 to 15
members, a Congress of national and EU parliamentarians
would be set up and the qualified majority voting system
would be changed to favour the bigger Member States.

 

Enlargement will not only have a
significant impact on the decision-making within the
Council, the Commission and the European Parliament, but is
also likely to change the political structure of the
Parliament.

The first consequences of enlargement
have already been felt in the European Parliament and the
Council where observers from the 10 future Member States
took their seats on 1 May 2003, one year ahead of full
membership.

The European Parliament welcomed 162
parliamentary observers from the 10 future Member States in
May 2003. The observers will take part in the Parliament's
proceedings until the entry into force of the Accession
Treaty on 1 May 2004, when their countries will have the
right to appoint fully-fledged MEPs for a period of a few
weeks until the European elections in June 2004.

The Parliament that will be elected in
2004 will have 732 members. The current Parliament, elected
in 1999, has 626 MEPs who are members of eight political
groups. Here is the composition of the current Parliament
with 159 observers (three observers have not yet been
designated):

Party MEPs Observers Total
European People's Party and European Democrats 232 69 301
European Socialists 175 57 232
European Liberal, Democratic and Reformist
Party
53 13 66
Confederal Group of the European United Left and
the Nordic Green Left
49 7 56
Greens/European Free Alliance 45 1 46
Union for a Europe of the Nations 23 3 26
Group for a Europe of Democracies and
Diversities
18 0 18
Independents/Non-affiliated 31 9 40

The number of MEPs per Member State:

Belgium 25
Denmark 16
Germany 99
Greece 25
Spain 64
France 87
Ireland 15
Italy 87
Luxembourg 6
The Netherlands 31
Austria 21
Portugal 25
Finland 16
Sweden 22
UK 87

The number of observers per future
Member State:

Czech Republic

24

Cyprus

6

Estonia

6

Hungary

24

Latvia

9

Lithuania

13

Malta

5

Poland

54

Slovakia

14

Slovenia

7

 

The position of the observers will be
similar to that of the observers from Spain and Portugal
during the pre-accession period of these two countries.
During their year with observer status, the 162 observers
will take part in much of Parliament's work. They have been
allocated offices in the Parliament's buildings in Brussels
and Strasbourg. Observers will have seats in the
Parliamentary Chamber but will not have the right to speak,
vote or be elected to positions of responsibility. In
parliamentary committees and interparliamentary delegations
the observers will have the right to speak, but not the
right to vote nor to be elected to any positions of
responsibility.

Language services for the observers will
be provided on the basis of availability, and will depend
in particular on the recruitment of translators and
interpreters. The observers will continue to draw their
salaries as national MPs. In addition, the European
Parliament will pay travel expenses between their capital
and Parliament's places of work, as well as a daily
subsistence allowance of 257 per day.

The future Member States can also
participate as observers in the Council meetings. The first
meeting with the future Member States acting as observers
took place at the Education Council on 5 and 6 May. Their
status allows the observers to take part in the discussions
but not in the decision-making process.

The Commission intends to employ some
3.900 staff from the 10 future Member States over the next
seven years. Around 200 officials from the 10 future
members have already been recruited to non-permanent posts
designed to prepare the ground for enlargement. Recruitment
targets have been set for each country according to
population size, the weighting of votes in Council and the
number of seats each country has in the European
Parliament. The number of EU officials will increase by
only 14 percent, while the Union's population will rise by
20 percent with the enlargement.

Most of the new recruits are expected to
be translators and interpreters because of the increase of
the EU official languages from the current 11 to 20 after
the enlargement. The number of possible language
combinations will rise to 380.

 

The Chairman of the EPP-ED Group, Hans-Gert
Poettering

, whose groups received the largest number of observers,
welcomed the arrival of the new colleagues. "Out of 162
observers who will participate in in the work of the
European Parliament, 69 have joined the EPP-ED Group. We
have been and we continue to be the biggest political
group in the European Parliament and we are proud of our
role as the driving force of enlargement." In 8 out of
the 10 accession countries the EPP-ED Group will be the
leading political formation (Cyprus, Estonia, Czech
Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Slovenia, and
Slovakia).

13 observers from 6 candidate
countries joined the
European Liberal Democrat and Reform
Group

, strengthening the position of the ELDR as the third
largest group in the enlarged European Parliament with 66
members. European Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson
hailed the arrival of Liberal parliamentarians from the
accession countries as "the culmination of years of
co-operation between the ELDR and emerging liberal
parties in favour of enlargement".

The Confederation of the food and drink
industries of the EU

(CIAA) stated that the arrival of 162 observers to the
European Parliament "is a historical milestone of the
enlar gement process, prefiguring tomorrow's political
Europe and facilitating the political integration of
future EU Member States". The CIAA has contributed for
two years, via the PHARE Business Support Programme, to
the reinforcement of the food and drink industry
federations in the future Member States. The CIAA has
recently been selected by the Commission to carry out a
new Business Support Programme to help with the rapid
implementation of EU food law in local companies and with
the introduction of voluntary codes of good hygiene
practices.

Eurochambres

, a network of 40 national and 1,600 regional and local
chambers of commerce, has called for a full and immediate
involvement of the future members in EU policies and
programmes. President of Eurochambres Christoph Leitl
stated that the future members should be fully involved
in the EU's Lisbon process, the implementation of the SME
Charter, national benchmarking programmes and the Broad
Economic Policy Guidelines, as well as the European
Convention. He warned that the level of preparation among
the central European business community is still far to
low, and that SMEs in particular need more information
and support.

 

Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia,
Hungary, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and
Slovenia will become fully-fledged members of the EU on 1
May 2004, provided the ratification procedures are
completed in these countries and the 15 EU Member
States.

The parliamentary observers will be
replaced on that date by fully-fledged MEPs. The new MEPs
will be appointed by their national parliaments for an
interim period until the European Parliament elections on
10-13 June 2004. They will hold office to the end of the
current Parliament's term, until the constituent plenary
session on 20 July 2004.  

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