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Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 11:43 GMT
Is EU enlargement good for Europe?
European Union leaders have reached an historic agreement with 10 candidate members at the Copenhagen summit, paving the way for the largest expansion in the EU's history.
The EU pledged to give another 1bn euros to Poland - the largest of the applicant countries - to clinch a deal on its membership.
The other nine new members will be offered up to 300m euros in extra aid.
Leaders of the 10 countries will now turn their attention to the potentially tricky task of selling the deal to their voters, ahead of holding a series of referendums before being admitted to the EU in 2004.
Meanwhile talks on brokering a deal on the reunification of Cyprus have collapsed. Although it is among the new members, the issue of admitting Cyprus as a divided island has been a potential stumbling block throughout the negotiations.
This could risk damaging relations with Turkey, whose poor human rights record means it will have to wait until 2004 before it is invited to negotiate joining the union.
Do you support EU enlargement? What advantages or disadvantages do you think it will bring?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I am fully in favour of EU enlargement. In trade terms, Britain has little to fear from the Eastern Europeans, since the two are competing at different ends of the market. Trade integration will certainly help strengthen the nascent democracy in the East, and bring lasting stability to the region. As for Turkey, I am again in favour of her membership. The expansion of the EU trading area can only be of benefit, and Turkish membership should slow down the over-hasty and unnecessary moves towards political union.
Being an extensive traveller on business in Eastern Europe, I know it is a bad policy to extent the EU into Eastern Europe. Most of the countries I visit are in the control of criminal elements and we are going to make Western Europe even more accessible to these elements by expanding the EU. The leaders of the EU are blind to this as they obsessed by expanding the EU in the hope of getting more unelected control of Europe.
I hope that a strong united Europe will hold back at least the worst parts of corporate American culture. Allowing us to be competitive, but keep our freedom and leave us with the time to enjoy a rich life in a way few people do over here.
The American government tends to pander to industry and although it is a rich nation financially, the Americans people have little time to enjoy it.
I'm not anti American, but I do feel that someone has to stand up to the US's current domination in the world arena. Particularly when their actions affect so many non American people in often adverse ways.
Look what happened to the Germans after they reabsorbed the eastern sector! Who's to say the strain of a dozen new states won't drag us all down this time? Maybe allow two new states in at a time and monitor the effect slowly. The citizens of the new states should understand the EU isn't all a rosy experience for those in the club already! Sometimes it is just a pain to deal with a new layer of rules.
I visited half of the prospective nations this summer and I would welcome them all into the EU with open arms. We have spent millennia putting up barriers and dividing people and now we have a historic opportunity to truly bring them down forever. Let us not miss this chance by being negative. Together we are stronger. Let us celebrate our togetherness and our diversity. We have come a long way in 45 years, let us build again, for the next 45.
I fail to see how enlargement can have anything other than a negative effect on the UK. Manufacturers will desert us for the cheap labour in Eastern Europe as soon as they possibly can. Many jobs will be lost in the UK and our contributions to the EU will go up.
I just don't see what we get from this.
The new members from the East may be very sorry they joined when they learn that the EU is fast turning into the sort of monster from which they have recently been freed. Do they (or anyone) realise for example that members of the "police" Europol are immune from prosecution? Some democracy!
The comments on this board seem to exemplify the attitude of some in Europe to Britain - happy to keep accepting our billions, but the moment we question why we get so little back from Europe, we are accused of anti-European xenophobia. Expansion will cost us dearly, but it seems we are not allowed to question this cost without waves of abuse from the continent. A united Europe is an excellent ambition, but at the moment the EU is a horrendously corrupt, bureaucratic nightmare that Britain should avoid.
Reading all this anxiety over a pending invasion of Western Europe by the unwashed Slavic hordes, the whole debate seems rather unreal. I can't think of a single person - family, friends, or neighbours - eagerly awaiting the chance to rush off to England to stand in the rain, working at some curry stand. Frankly, the image that comes to mind when thinking of England (or the English rather), is one of half educated yobs vomiting on the cobblestones of Mala Strana after having drunk as much Czech beer as their holiday funds allow.
Perhaps joining the EU isn't such a good idea after all.
The EU has no choice. In the next 10, 15 years NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) will start to expand to South America starting with such countries like Chile. There is also significant progress in mutual trade cooperation between the ASEAN and Pacific Rim countries which include the U.S. China and Russia. If EU wants to compete on more or less equal footing it has no choice but to expand.
The comments here reflect the deep distrust that both citizens of EU countries and those of the candidates have; there also is a distrust between the candidates themselves, with rich Slovenia and Cyprus finding themselves in a position where they may even have to pay into the EU budget soon after they join as the EU average is lowered by the likes of Slovakia and Lithuania.
To Alex from Japan: Please get your facts right. Slovakia, just like the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Slovenia is expected to be a net contributor to the EU budget. Nobody will be subsidizing us - we will be subsidizing the Polish and French farmers. Still, I support Slovakia's EU ascension - free trade and "higher ideals" trump the petty bickering about who will get more money out of the common pot.
Certainly, if Europe is to expand, the pace of expansion needs to be carefully controlled. Further, we need to be careful about how sealed the borders are. There certainly need to be effective border controls in place otherwise, we shall be swamped by illegal immigrants.
Whether to allow Turkey into the Union is quite another matter. Turkey is certainly not a European country, neither geographically (only about 5% of its territory lies in Europe) nor in religion or outlook.
The borders of Europe need to be defined somewhere - just as one could not sensibly argue that Colombia should be part of the United States of America. I fail to see the connection between Turkey and Europe.
I am against the EU enlargement because there are too many economical, ideological differences between Western and Eastern European countries such that w" the EU-15 must pay hard for these newcomers. They will surely bring no economic advantages to the table.
Hakan, Istanbul, Turkey
I want to thank Americans for their words of support. It is very hard to find true friends today. For the rest of you, I will gladly vote against joining EU in our referendum. I believe Poland will be better off without EU. This is another monster just like Eastern Bloc before; destined to sink sooner or later and when it does you will know how it feels to be betrayed.
Look Checks, Hungarians or whoever thinks they are not wished in the EU by some people. I have been outside Europe for many years and I wish anybody west of Ural to join the Union as long as they are Europeans. A Russian for me feels like a home town citizen when I come across one. So stop moaning, join and start working on your new fortunes.
Some Brits just need to get over their xenophobia. If they don't like what the EU is becoming then they should leave it, and try to live and trade isolated from the rest of the civilised world.
There was a phrase often cited about communism that went something like "under communism everybody is equal. Equally poor!" I feel that the expansion of the EU to embrace all these other countries will do just that to the UK and other key players in the EU whose main task seems to be to fund other countries who can't afford to pay their own way. Best to keep the EU exclusively for those who can fit the criteria without having to borrow the money.
I am really puzzled by the rather negative attitude of some of the
writers here. Of course, this is going to cost us some of our "wealth", but the opportunity to achieve some reunification of Europe after many decades and do this in a peaceful way, and not by force of arms like under Napoleon or Hitler is an opportunity not to be missed. This should be a cause for great celebration! Many people appear to forget how great an advance it was when Germany and France finally came to a positive collaboration with the founding of the Montan-union, again after a thousand years of embittered fighting. Quite frankly, this is an exciting time to live in, and the opportunities for the future are great. As you would say in German "Packen wir's an!" (Let's get going!")
Petr, Czech Republic
I am amazed at how hypocritical some Brits on this page are, complaining about the EU being corrupt, incompetent or inefficient. Maybe you should look at your own country first.
Europe should definitely unite - federalist principles suit me! What really disturbs me, having read all the contributions here is that UK citizens by and large are freaking out and angry about the 10 new member states, especially those of us who come from Eastern Europe. It makes no sense to threaten Eastern Europeans that we will be expelled within the next few years. It only shows who you guys in GB really are: a fearful group of people! Get some guts and try to change the EU instead of childishly chiding it!
Did anybody here vote for any of this? Was anybody given the chance?
James Millar asks if anyone voted for expansion? I did - twice! Just because Britain does not give its subjects the chance to vote doesn't mean the rest of us are in the same boat.
There is a problem in defining Europe's eastern boundary. Why not have Russia in - then our next neighbour would be Japan! The Turkish cultural zone extends practically to China - Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan etc. Why not all of them? And if Turkey comes in, so must Armenia.
I'm all for a unified Europe - warts and all. The truth is that we have far more in common with our European neighbours than we have with the US, despite tha language barriers. To Eric from the USA (below), I say this - if you're worried about 'the UK's destiny being in the hands of some power-hungry politician' then he should address his concerns to George Bush who seems to regard us an additional offshore US state - at least I get a vote in the European parliament!
Duncan Harris, UK
Europe's destiny will always be controlled by two countries on its fringes (UK and Russia) and another on the other side of the world (the US).
The EU currently struggles to control the UK, tries avoid offending Russia and pretends that it can stand up to America. Adding a few ex-Warsaw pact countries with messed up economies is really nothing more than a sideshow.
The UK just keeps pouring money into the EU so the likes of Kinnock can squander it on handouts to "poorer" countries. We should spend those wasted billions on the NHS etc. The UK should just pull out of the EU and let them get on with their own self-destuction.
All the usual arguments aside on enlargement - the central European countries like Poland, Hungary etc were strong trading partners with the west for centuries. The people arguing against enlargement always seem to be from the original EU club - self interest perhaps? Or worse xenophobia towards what are seen as second class states.
Richard, Northern Ireland
Join the Western Union! Australia, Canada, UK and US. We already are better integrated militarily than even Nato. Kiss Brussels goodbye. Keep the pint, curvy bananas, the right to govern yourselves, fatty sausages, etc. We may be squabbling third cousins at times, but the ties that bind us together are much stronger than the artificial ones imposed on the UK by faceless European bureaucrats.
Yes for Turkey, No to other East-European countries. Turkey should be a part of EU because of its long-term commitment to Nato and its strategic role in the region.
I hope that the people complaining about having to rebuild the new members are not the same ones who complain about America's "nation building" policies. I also hope they were not recipients of the Marshall Plan, (which just about everyone in the current EU was), as if it were not for that they would not have the money for the EU at all.
I am all for enlargement of the EU and even a federal Europe in principal. In reality though before we even consider such monumental changes a complete overhaul of the current system is needed. Unless this happens I am afraid to say I will not put my name to this undemocratic shambles. One just has to look at the behind the scenes deal between France and Germany on CAP. Do the opinions of the other 13 nation states not count for anything?
I used to be in favour of EU enlargement. The closer the moment of our integration is, the less support I feel. The original idea of united Europe is buried. Free trading and freedom of the individual is being overtaken by commands, quotas and regulations of the Council. The soil on the grave of the fair and free union is growing step by step with every regulation. Integration is just a empty word, bargaining for more money is the principle of being a member.
Individual national sovereignty is slowly melting away. The UK's destiny may one day be in the hands of some power hungry politician.
We have the choice of a large Europe, with rich, stable economies able to take a stand in world politics, or a small inward-looking Europe, surrounded by many separate poor states. Even though the long-term prospect is good, it is still a bit scary to wonder if there will be a large influx of immigrants from the new countries once they are allowed to move to the UK.
The EU is bad enough in its current state. Corrupt, incompetent, inefficient, and lots of other unpleasant adjectives. Enlargement will only make things worse.
Enlargement will quite possibly destabilise the EU, and we may see the first countries leaving or being expelled within the next five years. This can only be good for Europe.
Marta, Czech Republic
The EU only wants to create a bigger market for its products. Its political intentions are not well placed. We will vote no to the EU.
I'm sure it'll be America's decision anyway, as the EU seems to have about as much get up and go as the UN.
Expansion itself is not a bad idea - I look forward to the world being one big free trade area with free movement of people. The problem is that the model of the European Union is a disaster. All that's happened is that we have wiped out fish, destroyed the countryside and pay useless corrupt, incompetent bureaucrats lots of money for the privilege! We need to reform the EU then move forward.
If enlargement leads to a unified Europe with the will to do more in the world than simply regulate the length of cucumbers, then I'm all for it. I'm tired of people complaining about US hegemony, and a strong EU would be an excellent counterweight.
The general feeling in my country at least is that the UK is keeping Europe back. I think many Europeans would be happier with the UK not being part of the Union. I too agree that if the UK does not wish to take up its responsibility that a truly unified Europe would be better off without it. And yes, I understand it may mean considerable effort by all of us, but what many fail to see is that in order to assure political (and economical) stability in the long run, it's a political choice we should be prepared make.
Hsieh Zong Ting, Taiwan
Let us not forget that the nations that will be joining are Northern European nations with great histories. Were it not for communist repression they would be up there trading with us now on an equal footing. We let the Greeks and the Portuguese in. Was that a bad thing?
The UK will benefit from enlargement of the EU as much as any of the other members. In the long run, it is the right thing to do, and unification has given Europe the same voice at an international level as the Americans have, due to size and economy. But Turkey should not be allowed to join under any circumstances. We should draw limits starting with Turkey.
A lot of ambitious, hard working persons with good brains will join our people. A good stimulus for all. Let's prepare ourselves.
EU expansion would be wonderful if it didn't cost the British public a penny more. What is the point in donating our tax contributions to a fund that we get little from.
Expansion is going to cost me yet more taxes and the personal benefit will be zero. Do I think that this is a good idea? Most certainly not. When will UK politicians wise up to this costly monster and get us the hell out?
Being half-Polish, half-French and living in the UK, I find the comments expressed by Rodney and Keith very open minded, kind and heart warming. A true example of the wonderful British openness to that which is different.
The bigger it gets the more unwieldy it gets and consequently it is less likely to work. Then, hopefully, the whole thing will break up and we can get back to ruling ourselves and trading with Europe - just like the 'common market' was intended to be!
It could, if it was organised properly with controls and monitoring. But as it probably won't be the net result will see companies moving there and all the people will up and move here. This is likely to create massive problems in both places.
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