There are currently thirteen candidates for EU membership. Of these Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania are unlikely to be ready for entry in the next decade. Those likely to be ready within the next five years are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta. Croatia is now also likely to apply.The straightforward debate on whether the EU should expand at all is rare, although a valid topic for argument. More common are arguments over the speed of this expansion. After the fall of the Berlin wall it was thought expansion would have happened by the year 2000, later 2002-3 was set by the EU as a target date, now EU leaders talk of 2005 for the earliest entries and further slippage should not be ruled out. From the perspective of prospective members, such procrastination by the EU can look suspiciously like a lack of enthusiasm for any expansion at all. The arguments which follow are on the wisdom of expansion, but can easily be adapted for a debate on the timescale; all are from the point of view of current EU members as it is they who will have the final say on whether expansion happens.
It is right to extend to Central and Eastern Europe the economic and political benefits enjoyed by existing EU members as they recover from the “dead hand” of a communist rule imposed after deals between the USSR and the USA and Britain at the end of World War II.
It would be hypocritical for a European Union not to embrace the geographical scope it claims within its own name.
The ex-communist applicants often lack entrenched democracies and are sometimes prone to political corruption which could undermine the existing strengths of the Union.
current EU policies (e.g. on global trade, the environment) reflect the interests of its members, effectively a rich states’ club; it is not in the interests of these states, or their citizens, to dilute the present relative homogeneity of interests with several poorer nations with different priorities.
As new EU members become more prosperous their citizens will consume more and more of the high-technology, luxury, and creative products and services produced by existing members. Despite protectionist fears to the contrary, NAFTA has proved a success for the USA as more prosperous Mexicans spend more on imported American-made consumer goods, while the availability of cheaper labour south of the border has helped American manufacturers compete globally.
“There will be a better quality of life for citizens throughout Europe as the new members adopt EU policies for protection of the environment and the fight against crime, drugs and illegal immigration.”
“Exchange of knowledge, technology, and new ideas will become easier [with EU enlargement].”
“Foreign competition [from EU enlargement] will improve business transparency and corporate accountability.”
“accession to the EU is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for economic growth. The combined effects of market access and economic liberalization, not EU membership, optimize economic growth.”
Even if expansion was limited to the six best candidates, the EU would gain 63 million people, adding 17% to its population but only $255 billion, or 3%, to its GDP. This will put great strains on the EU budget, resulting in the removal of much of the regional aid currently available to poorer members – at a time when the advent of the Euro makes such redistribution of wealth ever more necessary to ensure economic stability.
Western European labor regulations will make many workers in the less-productive CEECs less competitive; agricultural subsidies will favor current EU members over future ones; and stringent environmental regulations will impose a cost of up to 120 billion euros on CEECs.
“By insisting on Western environmental standards, the EU will likely contribute to the prolongation of economic malaise in CEE.”
“Farmers can be excused for complaining that EU economic decisionmaking is eerily reminiscent of production quotas under Soviet occupation.”
“It is clear that even the richest of the EU states cannot maintain their generous social provisions indefinitely.”
The broader the EU gets, the more difficult it is to achieve deep integration
The EU will grind to a halt, because with so many members it will never be able to agree on anything
It will extend to almost all of continental Europe a project which has ensured unprecedented levels of peace and cooperation among former enemies in western Europe for nearly half a century. Entrenching peace, democracy and economic integration throughout the continent is to the benefit of all European nations, as has been demonstrated by the negative examples of recent Balkan conflicts, which have involved other European nations in (expensive) military and humanitarian missions, and have created major refugee problems.
A broader union can also be a deeper one – the EU has been expanding at regular intervals since 1973 and all the while integration has been steadily increasing
“The long-term economic wellbeing of the European peoples is incompatible with centralization of political and economic decisionmaking in the hands of the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels.”
e.g. the Commission and Court of Justice, endangering their effective working and the current benefits of membership of the EU. Expansion would be very risky unless it was preceded by major reforms of voting in the Council of Ministers to avoid deadlock in decision-making (or the tyranny of voting majorities by coalitions of small countries with a fraction of the EU’s population), and of the size and national-composition of the EU Commission itself, already unwieldy at 20 members. In addition, the EU stands to gain a long eastern border open to smuggling of both goods and illegal immigrants, and one which will bring the Union into constant friction with a suspicious Russia. The accession of divided Cyprus is also dangerous.
Richer member states gain more from being members of a large single market than they pay out in transfers to the poorer countries
Current fears are similar to those voiced before the accession of the relatively poor Portugal, Greece and Spain to the EU, but in none of these cases was there a flood of poor workers to the richer states.
Free movement of workers within the EU threatens to flood richer current members with millions of poor job-seekers from the east, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the west who rely upon wages these migrants would undercut.