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Business Day Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 10:10 GMT
NI faces challenges in new EU
Demonstration during the EU's Laeken summit in Belgium
It is EU policy to welcome any European country

One event which may have a profound effect on the future economic development of Northern Ireland is the enlargement of the European Union.

It has already been partly responsible for the modernisation of two key EU spending policies, the structural funds and the Common Agricultural Policy, and the adoption of the new single currency, the euro, by 11 EU member states.

The Northern Ireland director of the employers' organisation the CBI, Nigel Smyth, said it would result in a significant eastward shift in the balance of the EU.


New accessions in 1973, 1981, 1986 and 1995 have brought the current membership to 15 countries

"Reform of the agricultural policy and reduced structural fund support, combined with a more transparent and competitive market brought about by the euro, are strategic issues we must face up to," he said.

"It will put a huge emphasis on our regional competitiveness, and that must be a priority if Northern Ireland is to flourish in the new Europe."

The EU has enlarged several times since the days of the Common Market (European Economic Community) set up with six member states in 1957.

'Applied for membership'

New accessions in 1973, 1981, 1986 and 1995 have brought the current membership to 15 countries.

It is EU policy to welcome any European country that wishes to join, and the challenge of bringing Europe together again after the fall of the Iron Curtain has given a particular impetus to inclusion of the countries of central and eastern Europe.

In 1998, under the UK presidency, the European Union began negotiations with six applicant countries - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.


They say it will result in a more secure and stable Europe, and significant trading opportunities resulting from the introduction of new, rapidly growing economies

Seven other countries have also applied for membership - Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey. Negotiations with them will begin as soon as their preparations are sufficiently advanced.

It is difficult to predict how long these negotiations might take - previous accession negotiations have taken anything up to seven years.

Its advocates believe that enlargement will bring substantial benefits to the EU and its existing member states.

Gross national product

They say it will result in a more secure and stable Europe, and significant trading opportunities resulting from the introduction of new, rapidly growing economies.

Opponents of enlargement have voiced their concern about the cost to the EU budget.

The commission says that some transfer of resources is an inevitable consequence of EU solidarity.

But it says the financial perspectives agreed in Agenda 2000 show that with savings elsewhere, enlargement can be achieved within the EU budget ceiling of 1.27% of GNP (gross national product).


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29 Oct 02 | Europe
26 Feb 02 | Europe
25 Oct 02 | Europe
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