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EUROPEAN COUNCIL : FUTURE ENLARGEMENT: SUMMIT REVEALS RIFTS AMONG MEMBER STATES.

The European Council meeting, on 19-20 June, has exposed deep rifts among the Union's member states over how to proceed with further enlargement in case the Lisbon Treaty does not enter into force. While no member state wants to put on hold the accession talks of Turkey and Croatia or the integration process of the Western Balkans, some politicians, including France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, clearly state that without the Lisbon Treaty the EU will not be able to admit new member states in future. Other countries, including Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Finland, as well as the European Commission, believe that there is no link whatsoever between future enlargement and the Lisbon Treaty crisis.

"No Lisbon [Treaty], no enlargement," Sarkozy told a press conference after the first round of discussions among EU leaders, on 19 June. "For enlargement, we need a unanimous vote. I would find it very strange that Europe has trouble agreeing on its institutions but that it would be able to agree to allow in a 28th, 29th or 30th member," he explained. Sarkozy's views are to a large extent shared by Germany, EU sources told Europolitics.

According to experts, enlargement will be formally possible even if the Lisbon Treaty does not enter into force. In such a case, the accession of each new member state will require negotiations on new institutional arrangements, as the Nice Treaty, which is now in force, was agreed only for 27 countries. Such a scenario, according to Piotr Kaczynski, fellow researcher at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, means that in fact enlargement will be blocked. "There will not be enough political will within the EU to reach a new agreement on issues, which are, inter alia, part of the Lisbon Treaty," Kaczynski told Europolitics. To admit new countries (such as Croatia, which is expected to finish accession talks in 2009), separate agreements - so-called accession agreements - would be needed on the number of parliamentary seats and weighted votes in the EU Council.

The associated institutional arrangements and decision making mechanisms, which will need to be adjusted in order to enable the accession of a new country, are highly sensitive issues. Any such decision, and also the endorsement of the accession treaties, would require unanimity. The EU's leaders still remember the two sleepless nights at the European Council in June last year when, following heated discussions, they managed to hammer out a difficult last-minute compromise on the Lisbon Treaty, which was meant to provide for new institutional arrangement and to modify the EU's decision making mechanism.

PRO-ENLARGEMENT CAMP

Certain member states and the Commission reject this reasoning. Janez Jansa, the prime minister of current EU president Slovenia, believes that the Irish no' vote should not set back the enlargement calendar. "I don't think there is any reason for those candidate countries which have been fulfilling the requirements and have been negotiating for accession to slow down the process," he told reporters, adding that the enlargement process should not be "a victim" of the Lisbon Treaty crisis. Jansa's remarks were echoed by Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech foreign minister. "It is necessary to conclude the accession talks with Croatia. The countries of the Western Balkans, whose reforms largely depend on their future accession to the EU, should not be made victims of an internal problem of the EU," Schwarzenberg said. This position is shared by most of the new member states, including Poland and also the Commission. Commenting on the consequences of the Irish no' vote on the enlargement process, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has firmly stated recently that the two issues are unrelated (seeEuropolitics 3552).
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Jun 23, 2008
Words:605
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