Lack of public support and debate are seen as enlargement’s greatest problem according to one of Commission’s enlargement chiefs
Lack of public support and debate in the EU is the greatest problem of the EU enlargement process, said Eneko Landaburu, Director General of the Commission’s Enlargement DG. “All political, social and intellectual forces should be mobilised,” Landaburu told the Spanish daily El Pais.
Latest EU-wide opinion polls, the Eurobarometer published in February, showed that only 44 per cent EU citizens support enlargement. Opposition to enlargement is greatest in France, Austria and Germany.
Landaburu attributes this opposition to enlargement to fears of mass labour migration in some EU Member States, especially Germany. EU Member States are also afraid that enlargement would weaken the Union. “We have to be very careful not to give these countries transition periods or exemptions that could weaken our policies, especially in the area of the internal market,” he said. He warned that the EU cannot function and exist as a community of up to 30 countries “without a profound reform of European institutions”.
According to Landaburu, it will be “very difficult” to conclude enlargement negotiations before 2002. He concedes that up to eight countries could conclude negotiations by the beginning of 2003.