Policy evaluation 6: Enlargement

The specification says you need to know the following about enlargement.

  • How and why the EU has enlarged: the perceived benefits and criticisms of past enlargement, and the extent to which the new member states have remained transitional states or been fully integrated. This should include a study of the future of EU enlargement and its associated controversies.

1) Enlargement has been criticised because some countries have failed to comprehensively meet the acquis. Romania and Bulgaria (2007) still have problems with corruption and organised crime. Bulgaria is rated as the most corrupt country out of the 27 European states and the reports of corruption are hardening the resistance of other Europeans to further expanding the EU, thus lessening the chances of Turkey or Ukraine to ever join.

2) Another concern for expansion is that now, all new countries have to join the eurozone. The expansion of the EU to encompass weak economies such as Latvia and Bulgaria has raised concerns about the future of the strength of the euro. Failure to meet the convergence criteria is still a problem and with expansion, bodies such as the Commission have struggled to keep up. This uncertainty led to the blocking of Montenegro’s application in 2011.

3) The fears of mass immigration from East to West and the impact this has is another stumbling block to enlargement. There is a fear there will be a ‘brain drain’ from East to West as Lithuania says 3% of it’s population has moved West. There is also a concern in countries such as the UK that cheap labour will mean that wages decrease although data suggests that wages have only decreased 0.3% due to Eastern European workers. However the UK has seen a 40% rise in income-related benefit claim, from citizens of the eight Eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004

4) The EU is now the biggest integrated economic area, producing 30% of global economic output and 17% of world trade. Enlargement has brought more opportunities for businesses to expand, have access to more consumers and more profit. In the long term, economic interdependence can prevent conflict.

5) Enlargement is a way of increasing the EU’s global clout, the possibility of Turkey joining the union could prove to be a gateway to the Middle East. But there are doubts over Turkeys commitment to accession as it has not opened  a new chapter in 2 years and has focused on other relations in Asia primarily.