||European Parliament elections 1999
Important points 1994-1999
No enlargement without satisfactory
reform of EU politics
Parliament is convinced that enlargement is crucial for
strengthening the EU and guaranteeing stability throughout Europe. However, it also
believes expansion can only be a success if the institutional set-up is radically
overhauled and the current review of EU policies is carried out in a balanced manner.
Enlargement: each country on its merits
Since 1989 Parliament has played an active role towards the
countries of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It supported
democratic movements in those countries from the outset and has followed this up with
efforts to strengthen the rule of law and democracy. It has used its position as joint
budgetary authority with the Council to make a major political and financial contribution,
e.g. by sending observers to monitor elections and giving financial support to pro-
democracy movements. To forge closer links with the central and east European parliaments,
the EP decided in 1995 to organise regular meetings with them.
Parliament believes these countries should all be treated on
an equal footing and has therefore criticised the arrangement (known as "5 plus
1") proposed by the Commission, which wants to start negotiations initially with only
Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus. This de facto
division of the applicant countries into two categories is causing concern and
disappointment among those not in the first wave - the very ones most in need of reform,
modernisation and investment. Parliament therefore decided in December 1997 to support the
"regatta" model, by which all applicant countries which meet the Copenhagen
political and economic criteria would be in the same starting line-up for the enlargement
process. However, it acknowledged that the pace of negotiations would vary from country to
country. Ultimately, each applicant must be judged on its merits.
The Luxembourg European Council (December 1997) broadly
shared Parliament's view. It too called for a global, progressive approach which would
encompass all the applicants but be conducted at a pace appropriate to each country's
state of readiness. It also decided to hold a European Conference involving all eligible
countries - including Turkey (which, however, refused to take part) - to look at matters
of general interest and thus improve cooperation on foreign and security policy, justice
and home affairs, economic affairs and regional issues.
Agenda 2000 reforms beneficial to all
Firstly, in connection with the "pre-accession
strategy", it has insisted that applicant countries must adopt the acquis
communautaire (the body of existing Union laws and regulations) but also that the EU
must help them to do so, subject to certain conditions (the different forms of aid must be
coordinated and clarified and their implementation must be governed by transparent
policies). It has also been involved in reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP),
Structural Funds, Cohesion Fund and Transeuropean Networks as well as negotiations on the
next Financial Perspective (2000- 2006). On 18 November 1998 Parliament announced in
Strasbourg that it would broadly endorse the reforms proposed by the Commission provided
they contributed to the cohesion of the Fifteen while also smoothing the path for
accession by the applicant countries.
This issue will run throughout 1999. The deadlines are tight
and the stakes extremely high. In the run-up to the European elections on 10 and 13 June,
Parliament is looking to the Member States not only to reach agreement among themselves,
but also to listen to what MEPs have to say.
In November 1998 Parliament debated a number of reports
grouped under three headings: (1) the Pre-accession Strategy; (2) the Structural Funds,
Cohesion Fund and Transeuropean Networks (TENs); (3) the CAP, the European Agricultural
Guarantee and Guidance Fund (EAGGF) and Fisheries. The pre-accession reports were all
referred back to committee as a means of pressuring the Council to negotiate; the Council
cannot take a formal decision until it has received Parliament's opinion. The reports on
the Funds and the TENs were adopted and are at the first stage of the procedure;
Parliament's approval under the assent procedure will eventually be needed for the general
regulation on the Structural and Cohesion Funds, while in the case of the European
Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Transeuropean Networks the
cooperation procedure currently applies but will be replaced by the codecision procedure
once the Amsterdam Treaty enters into force.
As regards agriculture, on 28 January 1999 Parliament decided
its position on several reports which it also referred back to committee to keep pressure
on the Council, just as it did for the negotiations on other aspects of Agenda 2000.
Following a lively vote, Parliament did not rule out the possibility of
"co-financing" of the CAP (by which Member States would pay a share of
agricultural spending themselves). However, it believes this must not affect certain
principles of the CAP such as its contribution to the economic and social development of
rural regions. As part of this aim of ensuring stability, Parliament is proposing that any
budget funds from the EAGGF Guarantee Section which have not been spent during the
financial year should be put in a special reserve of the EU's agriculture budget.
Similarly, Parliament did not reject the idea of price reductions but it did challenge the
scale of the cuts proposed by the Commission. If the outcome is to be a high level of
direct income support, Parliament wants it to be conditional upon observance of
environmental standards, animal welfare and "sound agricultural practice".
The total amount of the 1999 EU budget is EUR 96 928 million
in payment appropriations and EUR 85 557 million in commitment appropriations. The main
headings are: CAP: 40 440m; Structural Actions: 30 450m; Internal Policies: 5 021m;
External Action: 3 952m; Administrative Expenditure: 4 502m; Reserves: 1 192m.
Further information: Jacques NANCY (tel. 0032-2-284 2485,
||WebMaster|Guide|© European Parliament||