Despite growing opposition from some member states – namely those where the population has voted ‘No’ in EU Constitution referenda – the Commission wants to keep enlargement on track.
Five weeks after the publication of the Commission’s positive opinion on granting the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia official EU candidate status, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn will try to convince EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 12 December 2005 not to shut the doors to the EU for the countries of the Western Balkans.
The ministers will decide upon a Commission proposal on enlargement strategy, which stresses that there will be “no further enlargement with a large group of countries at the same time”. The document says that “the Western Balkans contains smaller countries at different stages on their road towards the EU. Future enlargements will go at the pace dictated by each country’s performance in meeting the rigorous standards.”
The governments of France and the Netherlands argue, however, that the EU should first come to terms with the deadlocks on the EU budget and on the Union’s constitution before opening negotiations on the accession of more countries, which, they say, would put more weight on the shoulders of politicians trying to communicate the benefits of the EU to increasingly sceptical populations.
Addressing a conference of the Friends of Europe in Brussels on 8 December 2005, Commissioner Rehn stressed that “candidate status does not lead automatically to accession negotiations, and the Council has to make a separate decision on starting negotiations.” Speaking the following day in Skopje, EU High Representative Javier Solana said: “The European Union’s relationship with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is […] moving from post-crisis stabilisation to pre-accession integration.”