From ‘absorption’ to ‘integration capacity’

The Commission has fleshed out what ‘absorption capacity’ actually means for future EU-applicant countries.

Alongside the 8 November progress reports on Turkey and the Balkan applicant nations, the Commission also spelled out its future enlargement strategy. The absorption capacity, which achieved renewed importance at the EU summit in June 2006 (see EURACTIV 16 June 2006),  has been renamed to the less controversial “integration capacity”.

“Integration capacity” appears to be a somewhat more precise and possibly more operational term. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn assessement is based on three components:

  • Institutional: “The Union needs to ensure that its institutions and decision-making processes remain effective and accountable, for the sake of current member states as well as in view of further enlargement”.
  • EU policy impact: “The Union needs to be in a position, as it enlarges, to continue developing and implementing common policies in all areas. Assessment of the impact of enlargement on EU policies will take place at all key stages of the enlargement process.” 
  • EU budget: “Before any further accession, the EU will need to decide on the overall budgetary means required…The Commission’s analysis will take account both of the budgetary aspects and of the increased economic dynamism generated by accessions.”

Rehn stressed: “We need to ensure public support for enlargement. Maintaining rigour in the process and strict conditionality is essential to safeguard this support.” 

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