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Postupak : 2012/2025(INI)
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Odabrani dokument : A7-0274/2012

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A7-0274/2012

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PV 21/11/2012 - 11
CRE 21/11/2012 - 11

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PV 22/11/2012 - 13.8
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P7_TA(2012)0453

Debates
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11. Enlargement: policies, criteria and the EU’s strategic interests (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report (A7-0274/2012) by Maria Eleni Koppa, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Enlargement: policies, criteria and the EU’s strategic interests (2012/2025(INI)).

 
  
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  Maria-Eleni Koppa, rapporteur. (EL) Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking all my fellow Members, Commissioner Füle and all those who contributed to the preparation of this strategic report by the European Parliament. The report comes at a crucial moment. At a time when the economic crisis is eating away at the fabric of Europe in many countries, both inside and outside the European Union, there is talk of enlargement fatigue.

The primary aim of this report, then, is to underline the importance of the enlargement policy: a policy which has demonstrably been the most successful expression of the Union’s external action and which represents the essence of its soft power. For decades now, enlargement has indeed contributed to strengthening peace in Europe. It has been a decisive factor in the reunification of the continent after the end of the Cold War, and continues to provide an incentive for further reforms and democratisation in the countries looking forward to accession. This contribution was recently recognised with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union, and it would be a huge mistake to downgrade or simply abandon the enlargement policy.

The disappointment which some people feel is nevertheless justified. The Union seems to be raising the bar higher and higher, while statements by European politicians have at times damaged its credibility, particularly as regards its ability to integrate or absorb a particular country.

The report confirms the central role of the Copenhagen criteria and attaches great importance to the policy of conditionality. However, this policy must be transparent and fair in relation to candidate countries. What the Union is asking of each country individually must be absolutely clear from the start. At the same time, all the specific steps must be defined from the outset with benchmarks allowing objective evaluation of a country’s progress.

During the current economic crisis, which gives rise to justified fears and insecurity about the future, better information and promotion is needed regarding the benefits of the enlargement process. This is important both for EU citizens and for the citizens of candidate countries. However, the main question hanging in the balance is the credibility of the Union: when and if a candidate country meets all the necessary criteria for accession, there should be no doubt that it will be accepted into the European family. The credibility of the Union’s promise of accession is a necessary component of the conditionality policy. It must therefore be guaranteed if we are to retain our ability to favourably influence developments in the countries that are candidates for accession.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Commission’s new negotiating approach which puts the rule of law and fundamental rights at the heart of the accession process.

I look forward to the debate, and my thanks once again to all those who helped in the drafting of this report.

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would like to thank the Parliament, and in particular the rapporteur, Ms Koppa, for her excellent report on enlargement. I welcome the report’s acknowledgement that enlargement is a successful European Union policy and has to remain in the Union’s toolbox.

The report is largely in line with and supportive of the Commission’s approach, in particular on the balance between conditionality/integration capacity, on the one hand, and maintaining the momentum of the enlargement process, on the other. I am pleased with the emphasis in the report on benchmarking; on the necessary link between the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) objectives and the requirements of the accession criteria; on greater involvement of civil society and the social partners in the accession process; and on associating the enlargement countries with the Europe 2020 goals. This is all in line with the Commission’s policy, as reflected in this year’s enlargement strategy communication.

Let me turn now to some of the issues raised in the report, starting with the methodology. As you know, the Commission is actively engaged in the process of constantly improving the enlargement methodology. With the new approach on chapters 23 and 24, we have taken seriously the lessons learned in previous enlargements and have proposed a concrete way of reflecting them in future. The two chapters will now be opened as early as possible and should be among the last ones to be closed. This will allow the accession countries sufficient time to develop solid and sustainable track records.

We agree on the need for a focus on ‘social challenges’ at times when this dimension is of the utmost importance in both the enlargement countries and the EU. The initiative for a new dialogue with the enlargement countries on employment and social reform programmes, as set out in this year’s strategy paper, responds to that need.

On open bilateral issues, it is important that these are addressed as early as possible in the enlargement process, with determination, in a good-neighbourly spirit and taking into account overall EU interests. Bilateral issues should not hold up the accession process.

We welcome the acknowledgment in the report that the Copenhagen criteria continue to be the fundamental basis and should remain at the heart of enlargement policy. The Commission considers that the existing basis remains relevant and adequate.

The Commission always keeps policies under review, taking account of developments and lessons learned, and we are open to discussing further refinements. We have taken note of the comments in the report on the need to simplify and reduce the administrative burden associated with IPA funding. I agree with these comments and, largely thanks to the lessons learned from the current IPA instrument and feedback from the various stakeholders, our IPA II proposal addresses this need.

Let me conclude by thanking you, honourable Members, for your continued support for our enlargement policy. With your support, I am confident that enlargement will remain a strong and credible policy, with the rule of law at its centre, for the benefit of the citizens of the enlargement countries and the European Union as a whole.

 
  
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  Nadezhda Neynsky, rapporteur for the opinion of Committee on Budgets. (BG) The enlargement process faces a new type of financial problem, namely the risk of inappropriate cuts to the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance in the next financial framework, thereby rendering the negotiations with applicant countries fruitless. Let me remind you that when a decision was taken about 20 years ago to enlarge the European Community to include Eastern Europe, hardly anyone could have imagined the speed with which the entire system would turn around and how quickly the values of the market economy and rule of law would be embraced. I would say that the Eastern enlargement has been the most successful and the most European project of the European Union because it has led to incredible economic, social and political changes in the lives of many in a short space of time. The Nobel Prize was awarded to the European Union precisely to support cooperation for peace and as a reminder of these extraordinary achievements.

Ladies and gentlemen, enlargement is a policy that has no equivalent at national level. It is not an infrastructure policy or an agricultural subsidy but an investment in the future of this continent. Let us not, however, treat it completely as an end in itself. We must reinvigorate this investment, through innovative financial instruments for instance, in order to better concentrate our financial resources, with the assistance and cooperation of our partners in the most transparent and useful projects, in accordance with sustainable national policies.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda, on behalf of the PPE Group. (RO) Mr President, I would like to congratulate Ms Koppa on an excellent report. I wish to highlight the good timing of this report, 20 years after the Copenhagen European Council that adopted the accession criteria for enlargement and in the midst of the latest economic crisis. It is useful to remind ourselves of how both the European Union citizens and the citizens from candidate or potential candidate countries have benefited from the European Union’s enlargement.

As underlined by one of the amendments to the resolution, enlargement has had a significant impact, not only on candidate states, but also on the European Union as a whole. Enlargement is always an opportunity to better define the identity, objectives and policies of the European Union. It is also an opportunity to better communicate these to the European citizens.

As the rapporteur for the accession of Iceland, I regret that the enlargement process focuses almost exclusively on the Western Balkans and less on the other candidate or potential candidate states. Commissioner Füle and I have just returned from visiting our Icelandic colleagues. The report is not particularly relevant to them.

I also wish to express my profound disagreement with paragraph 38, which introduces a new category, that of European Union associate members. I believe that the enlargement policy reflects the openness of the European project, which is meant to unite all European countries in an ever stronger Union.

I will end by highlighting the enlargement potential of countries such as Moldova, which, while geographically European, can only accede if they implement all of the reforms needed to allow them to join Europe politically too.

 
  
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  Kristian Vigenin, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, this is really an excellent report. We have discussed this a number of times in the Foreign Affairs Committee with colleagues from Member States and with colleagues from enlargement countries and I think that we have produced a really remarkable result, and I congratulate Mrs Koppa for all the work she has done.

The report details the achievements and the shortcomings of the enlargement process and there is also an assessment and a number of recommendations on how it should go on. Enlargement however is not a technical process and we often forget this. This is a very political process. I must say that Mr Füle, the Commissioner on Enlargement, has made history these last three years making this processes credible enough and carrying the stick and the carrot hoping to unlock and unblock: to unlock internal political situations; to unblock bilateral issues. And all this must be very irritating sometimes; at least it is for me to see when countries or political parties do not see the bigger goal, the bigger idea behind that process.

You have invented a positive agenda on Turkey and a high-level accession dialogue for Macedonia. I wonder what the next bright idea is just to keep the process going while countries block each other. Looking at the technicalities we sometimes forget the dream about a united Europe; we forget about the great ideas of peace, solidarity, mutual support, cooperation and dialogue.

We talk only of criteria, requirements, benchmarks, indicators, roadmaps – let us talk also about why the European Union was born. Why the unification – what I call unification and not enlargement in 2005 and 2007 – has happened and has taken place and why this cannot be completed without the Western Balkans.

My time is running out but I would really like to call on the Council, particularly, but also the Commission and the Parliament, to make sure that in the next seven-year period there will be enough financing for the enlargement process and that we make sure that this process can continue successfully and we do not fight over words in the trialogues which are in front of us and taking place right now but that we think about the big idea and make compromises for the future of our Europe.

 
  
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  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur, Ms Koppa, on her excellent report, which we have indeed debated several times and which my group was pleased to vote for in committee.

I would also like to say though that I am the first speaker up to now to come from one of the founding Member States of the European Union. All the others are from countries which joined the Union at different stages later, which goes to show how much the gradual enlargement of the Union is a fundamental aspect of its existence and is among the most successful policies developed over the years.

We will approve this report because we agree with it, as I said, because we do believe that, generally speaking, the enlargement of the European Union can be said to have been successful. We also agree with the new approach that Commissioner Füle has proposed and developed and which includes opening chapters 23 and 24 very early during negotiations and keeping them open a long time. That should prevent painful surprises at the end of the journey and, above all, give applicant countries time to properly implement difficult reforms in the field of justice and fundamental freedoms.

This report contains paragraph 38, which has just been discussed. Some members of my group, myself included, will not approve this, not so much because we are against the idea of associate membership as such, but because we regret that it has found its way into a report on enlargement. We do not believe it belongs there. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Ulrike Lunacek, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, Maria Eleni Koppa’s report affirms enlargement and accession, which are at the core and the heart of this European Union. As others have said before, many of us would not be here without enlargement. Annemarie Neyts-Uyttebroeck and others would be sitting here among very few. So this is the important part of this enlargement report and I would like to thank Maria Eleni Koppa for the good work and the good cooperation she has done, and also thank Commissioner Füle, to support him in the efforts he is making.

Enlargement needs many things. I can just mention a few. It means visa liberalisation, freedom to travel for people, the fight against corruption and it also means involving civil society. This is essential. We ask the Commission and Council to start developing an arbitration mechanism to resolve bilateral and multilateral disputes.

As rapporteur for Kosovo, I would like to ask fellow MEPs to vote tomorrow in favour of deleting the footnote on Kosovo in paragraph 28, following in line with what this Parliament has been doing since Kosovo declared independence in 2008: supporting the independence of Kosovo.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, the ECR Group is of the view that EU enlargement is a success story, but we also support a more flexible, variable EU geometry in any new proposed future European Union treaty allowing some countries to integrate further than others.

As countries develop politically and economically, it is perfectly correct and right that they should be able to contribute to the EU and share in the EU citizens’ prosperity, and in my role as rapporteur for Montenegro, an EU candidate, I have witnessed first hand that country’s strides towards eventual accession, although it looks as if its entry into the EU will not be for at least another ten years.

Other countries such as Serbia and Macedonia are also making great progress and deserve to be included in our club, although a solution must clearly be found for the Greek veto on Macedonia’s name question. Other general issues such as corruption and organised crime must also be tackled in the Western Balkans, but we can look forward to good news stories as well. Croatia’s entry next year is to be welcomed and if little Iceland’s electorate votes to join the EU, then we will be happy to see them in the EU fold as well. An economic block of over 30 countries in the future, with more than 500 million people, would be a serious force to be reckoned with in the world.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Salavrakos, on behalf of the EFD Group. (EL) Mr President, I should firstly like to congratulate Ms Koppa on her excellent report. The report confirms the European Parliament’s commitment to the enlargement policy, and introduces innovative approaches to the improvement of this policy. New realities such as the economic crisis, and also global challenges, call for a new approach to enlargement. With this in mind, Ms Koppa has given us a number of interesting proposals. Particularly welcome is the recommendation set out in the report that bilateral disputes should be settled before the start of accession talks. I also welcome the proposal to introduce performance indicators and benchmarks into the accession process, so that it becomes more transparent and democratic; and the proposal to strengthen the social dimension of government by strengthening the participation of civil society. Potential enlargement, subject to observance of the Copenhagen criteria and dedication to the European acquis and its values, is a tool for strengthening the Union. The Bible says: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’. Personally I hope that the unravelling of the European Union, evidently under way at present, will be short-lived.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). (NL) Mr President, I am sorry but this report on enlargement policy shows a disconcerting unworldliness. At no point, for instance, does it ask the question whether the European Union does not have better things to do right now than further enlargement by adding new Member States. I am thinking of the euro crisis, the problems with Schengen, the problems with the multiannual budget, the democratic deficit, etc. Perhaps I missed it, but no part of this report deals with the European Union’s capacity to absorb certain applicant countries.

The report also contains a number of flagrant contradictions. Paragraph 28, for example, is taken up by the so-called positive agenda for Turkey, while the next paragraph emphasises that applicant countries must improve in the areas of democracy and human rights. As far as Turkey is concerned, this really is quite a euphemism. Either applicant countries meet the standards for accession or they do not. Turkey did not even meet the standard to start accession negotiations and since then the problems in that country have only got worse. Do not forget all those academics and journalists who are behind bars for expressing their opinions.

Parliament should use plain language for once and argue for stopping the negotiations with Turkey. That is a very different things from the propaganda in paragraph 35 of the report which argues for softening up public opinion, public opinion which – it must be said – usually shows more common sense and is more realistic than all the EU institutions put together when it comes to the problems associated with enlargement.

 
  
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  Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE). (ES) Mr President, in the last decade, one of the Union’s greatest successes has undoubtedly been the enlargement process. There is a series of principles that must govern, or must continue to govern, that process. I am referring to consolidation, conditionality and communication with the citizens.

Another important prerequisite is the EU’s integration capacity. Does this principle still apply, as Ms Koppa’s report rightly suggests? Will we have resources in the future to finance the common policies or cohesion?

I ask this because far-reaching cuts are being proposed for the new financial perspective, precisely in the funds for those policies, and others, too.

Is that the European Union that we want in the future? Is that the way to prepare for future enlargements?

Paradoxically, sometimes the greatest defenders of enlargement are those who most want to reduce the EU budget. We are also seeing the difficulty of having 27 Member States when taking decisions to tackle the serious crisis and strengthen the economic and monetary union.

Sometimes, it takes a great deal of time to apply political decisions and that does not set a good example for future enlargements. It is possible that some of our own citizens cannot understand either how the European Union, with so many difficulties, will be able to cope with new enlargement challenges.

I would add a small point: I am very pleased that the Koppa report incorporates the idea of creating a specific curricular element on the Union in secondary schools. It is the best way for young generations to find out about the Union and learn more about the enlargement process.

My last point is that I cannot support the removal of the footnote from paragraph 28; it is the same formulation as that used by the Council and the Commission.

 
  
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  Knut Fleckenstein (S&D). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in this year’s enlargement strategy, the Commission has defined the key issues very accurately. Our rapporteur has reiterated them very effectively. It is about the credibility of our policies, honesty towards the EU’s citizens and the citizens of the candidate countries, and clarity on the criteria, which must be fulfilled prior to accession. We cannot pursue policies which bypass public opinion in the EU Member States. Public opinion in many countries is sceptical towards further rounds of enlargement. It is therefore the task of policy-makers – not only the task of the Commission but our task too – to bring clarity to the accession process and to explain it more effectively at home.

Any country which successfully completes the accession negotiations will have progressed through a lengthy reform process and will have incorporated many of our legal provisions into its system of governance. An improved enlargement process does not mean offering a firm timetable but creating more clarity for the steps along the road towards accession.

That is why we must send out a clear signal. Firstly, we want to keep the EU’s door open to the European countries because an enlarged EU offers all of us security, democracy and prosperity. Secondly, any country embarking on the road towards accession should be able to count on support from all of us. Thirdly, however, the pace of progress towards accession will ultimately depend on how quickly the accession criteria can be fulfilled and implemented. We know from experience that ‘rebates’ are not helpful here.

Let me give some advice to my German colleagues in the House and at home: we Germans should not always act as if we were expecting to have to pick up the tab at the end of the process! We have profited to such an extent from previous enlargements that I feel sure that we can look forward to the next stage in a calm and confident manner!

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI). (DE) Mr President, the rapporteur seems to be looking at many aspects through rose-tinted spectacles, especially as regards the Copenhagen criteria. I cannot see any positive developments in Turkey, for example. Freedom of expression, press freedom, freedom of religion, women’s rights: these are unresolved issues with no solution in sight.

According to the report, candidate and potential candidate countries should have resolved any disputes with their neighbours prior to accession, particularly those concerning territorial issues. My question is this: where is the solution to the Cyprus issue? Indeed, it is the EU that has to foot the bill. This year alone, we paid EUR 860 million to Turkey in so-called pre-accession assistance.

The critical situation along the Syrian border highlights the additional dangers associated with Turkish accession. When the European Coal and Steel Community was founded exactly 60 years ago in 1952, its founders’ main aim was to achieve lasting peace in Europe. We simply have to recognise that, as is quite apparent from the present situation, accession by Turkey, which has a border to Syria and is a front-line state in the Middle East conflict, would mean bringing ongoing military conflicts into the heart of the European Union.

 
  
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  Eduard Kukan (PPE). – Mr President, this House has always been a strong supporter of enlargement and although I have some critical remarks concerning this report, I am glad that it confirms our commitment to enlargement strongly.

I think it is important to talk about strengthening enlargement policy right now, yet I still think that with this report we are missing an opportunity to do so more concretely and more coherently. As a committed supporter of enlargement, I think that we should have a clear and sharp vision in this respect. This is for our future’s sake and for the sake of the accession countries. We need to be able to articulate problems and show the direction.

Enlargement has been a successful process so far. Despite the challenges the Union and the accession countries are facing now, I still believe it could bring further benefits to us all. The EU therefore has to strengthen its position in this process. If we want to drive the process forward, we need to show the ability to contribute substantially to the solution of such critical issues like the name issue of Macedonia, Kosovo or the future of Bosnia Herzegovina. It is good that things are moving on, yet we need stronger commitment and a clear vision not just to move things but also to achieve goals.

 
  
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  María Muñiz De Urquiza (S&D). (ES) Mr President, I would like to thank Maria Eleni Koppa for this excellent report, which was supported by the vast majority of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In spite of the crisis, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament supports unreservedly the European Union’s enlargement policy because it has proven to be the most effective tool for consolidating democracy and stability in the candidate countries.

We have also spoken out against alternatives to accession, such as privileged associations or other proposals that reduce the expectations of accession and its effects in terms of democratisation, human rights and economic prosperity. In difficult circumstances, such as those that we are currently experiencing, a lack of solidarity and populist policies threaten our plan for social, political and economic cohesion, which we must continue to construct.

For that reason, the Committee on Foreign Affairs rejected a series of amendments that sought to distort the debate on enlargement and it has already made it clear that any future accession process will have to follow the existing procedures, will require unanimity among the Member States and will, under no circumstances, go beyond the scope of the agreements, constitutions and Treaties.

The European Parliament, too, should respect and not depart from the terminology of the United Nations, the Council and the Commission for the footnote relating to Kosovo. If we all respect legality and guarantee legal certainty, we will be able to move forward with this policy, in which we are firm believers.

 
  
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  Anna Ibrisagic (PPE). (SV) Mr President, despite the economic crisis, we in the PPE also support enlargement.

There are some important things that we found in the report. The most important of all is that we would like to emphasise that we strongly support the enlargement process, not least at a time when less democratic and less European forces are attempting to convince us that Europe is about something other than freedom, peace and security.

It is also important for us to acknowledge that enlargement is good, both for the candidate countries and for Europe. It is a good framework within which we can discuss our political visions and the candidate countries’ fulfilment of the criteria, which is so important for the credibility of the enlargement process.

The new Serbian government, for example, has taken Chapter 23 seriously and has done a very good job with regard to the fight against corruption and organised crime. However, certain elements of the previous government’s structures continue to exert their influence and are making this work more difficult. We must therefore remain alert and render assistance as and when necessary.

Like Mr Kukan, I also think that this report insists a little too much on things like the social dimension and the EU’s integration capacity. I had wished that we could previously have had definite visions for the security aspect of enlargement too.

Finally, I would like to thank the Commissioner for his personal commitment in these questions. Your commitment is so very much greater than merely your work, which you do absolutely splendidly, and I would like to thank you for that.

 
  
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  Eleni Theocharous (PPE). (EL) Mr President, I warmly congratulate Maria Eleni Koppa on her report on enlargement policy. However, I strongly oppose paragraph 27, which is open to misinterpretation and may be used as a means of casting doubt on the sovereignty of states, with its references to binding arbitration and recourse to international courts for the settlement of cross-border or other disputes. I refer to the case of Cyprus. Although, for us, there is no cross-border territorial dispute with Turkey, and no dispute over our country’s exclusive economic area, Turkey is indisputably causing provocation by illegally occupying Cypriot territory and – with belligerent threats, with battle cries – laying claim to our exclusive marine economic zone. This is not consistent with the behaviour of an country which is a candidate for accession. I consider it my duty to defend the rights of my country and to uphold EU rights and the credibility of the European Union, and I stress that we cannot enter into any arbitration with a country which is acting illegally, and whose foremost pre-accession obligation was and remains the lifting of the military occupation of Cyprus. Turkey must abide by the principles of the European Union and not interrupt the work of the Joint Parliamentary Committee because it supposedly does not recognise the Cyprus Presidency.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE). (EL) Mr President, it is superfluous for me to add my own comments to those of my fellow Members on Ms Koppa’s excellent work and the high quality of her report.

I shall mention only the crucial question of the outstanding bilateral issues that must be settled by countries that are candidates for accession. This controversial question, as you know, has fuelled long, complex and sometimes heated debates in the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. This report, and specifically paragraph 26, settles this question in a realistic, politically sound and clear manner. Outstanding bilateral problems, and particularly those with a bearing on good neighbourly relations between a country that is a candidate for accession and a Member State, must be resolved before the start of accession negotiations.

After all this, there is only one thing to add: I am concerned at the fact that the report mentions the possibility of a new category, that of the associate member state. This is a serious issue which I think we need to look at again.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D). (HU) Commissioner Füle, this is an outstanding report, and in this context it would be good to signal to the candidate countries that the reason why they need to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria (rule of law, human rights, regionalisation, minority rights) and undertake reforms is not because Brussels expects it, but because it is in their own interests. So it is very important to turn things around and warn the candidate states not to follow the recently acceded Member States in the area of economic reform, where the neoliberal model, unbridled capitalism, has sadly been put in place. I have one more comment to make: the European Commission and the European Union can only credibly ask them to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria if the current Member States fulfil them too, including as regards minority...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE). (ES) Mr President, one of the basic objectives of the European Union is to ensure that we grow, become increasingly strong and prosperous, and that is endorsed in this report on enlargement. I agree with that.

I also want to see a United States of Europe. Achieving it means growing outwards but also inwards. That is incompatible with expelling people who want to continue to be EU citizens and who form societies that fulfil all of the requirements in that regard.

There are nations in Europe that are more prosperous and modern than many Member States, with clear economic identities, their own languages and their own history, which is often deeply European. Some have found a satisfactory form of representation in certain states; others have not.

Democracy resolves problems, and this is one of them. It is a political problem that requires dialogue and agreement, not enforcement and certainly not threats.

 
  
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  Charalampos Angourakis (GUE/NGL). (EL) Mr President, in paragraphs 26, 27 and 28, the report attempts to convert international differences, including questions of military occupation, such as Kosovo and Cyprus, into bilateral disputes under the arbitration of the European Union, which will undertake to resolve them on the basis of the overall interests of the Union, as is expressly stated, and not on the basis of international law. On the pretext of human rights and democracy, the report calls on the European Union to intervene in the political systems of the accession countries by financing – through pre-accession aid – the mechanisms of the bourgeois state, various non-governmental organisations and the labour aristocracy of the trade unions.

The report expresses the increasingly aggressive and imperialist nature and role of the European Union and calls for a strengthening of this role against peoples and Member States and against the accession countries and, in particular, the peoples of Europe. The only way ahead, therefore, is through disengagement from the EU and through relations of solidarity among the peoples.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE). (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking Maria Eleni Koppa for drafting this comprehensive and balanced report. In my opinion, one of the main factors contributing to the success of enlargement policy is the effectiveness of the Instrument for Pre-Accession. Like the rapporteur, I welcome the Commission’s proposals for the future structure of the IPA, in particular the increase in financial assistance of more than 7 %, along with the proposal for enhanced differentiation of assistance according to the specific needs of each beneficiary country and for incentives for good performance.

I believe that these changes will help increase the level of assistance, including for small and medium-sized enterprises, which are of vital importance for...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (S&D). – Mr President, having been a bit fed up in recent days from hearing from other British parties about the EU getting smaller by one, I welcome this forward-looking constructive report about EU enlargement. I would like to address Commissioner Füle and say that we are supporting you by calling for the momentum towards enlargement to be maintained; I hope our combined commitment towards greater civil society participation will be reflected in the financial commitments for the next IPA programming period and for decentralisation to local government to be included too.

When the far right in this debate focuses on absorption capacity they reveal in the same speech that this is cover for a prejudice against Turkey. In the EU, we should never agree one rule for big and one for small. As standing rapporteur for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, I thank Maria Eleni Koppa for recognising what she calls the fresh dynamic but she will understand if I use this speech also to call on the December European Council to agree a date for the country’s accession talks to start.

 
  
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  Norica Nicolai (ALDE). (RO) Mr President, more and more people feel that the European Union is experiencing enlargement fatigue and that its progress has stalled. There are, however, several accession applications that prove these opinions wrong, like the 2005 and 2007 enlargements. I wonder how the European Union would have weathered the current crisis without enlargement and how it would have responded to global challenges.

We cannot, however, talk about enlargement while using the notion of a European Union associate member, which move further away from the spirit of the founding Treaties. As we all know, there cannot be cohesion and the Union cannot exist if the Member States are not equal, if all of its citizens are not equal. We cannot talk about weak legal instruments, such as this…

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Jelko Kacin (ALDE). (SL) Mr President, this is a very important report, indeed more important than it might appear, since it strategically shapes our view of enlargement as one of the main instruments of stability and economic growth.

Yet it is not enough for this process simply to be alive; it must also be successful, and it must be completed. The majority of countries participating in this process are young democracies. Many have only just become independent. Institutions are weak, they are having difficulty in transition and they are experiencing considerable frustration, linked especially in the Balkans to the recent wars.

It is important, therefore, for the Commission to have a clear and strong mandate to open up the most challenging chapters as soon as possible, and to force countries to make more rapid progress. It is not true that everything depends on them; a lot depends on us and…

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE). (HU) The European Union’s enlargement policy is focused on the Western Balkans, and so the report quite rightly draws attention to the issue of protecting minorities. Knowing the recent history and ethnic relations in the region, the magnitude of this issue is such that current EU’s minority protection provisions – effectively non-existent – are inadequate for addressing the problems. Interethnic relations not only affect stability within a country, but also relations between countries, and between Member States and accession countries. In my opinion, therefore, the enlargement process needs to be seen as a wake-up call to the EU that minority protection provisions need to be put in place within European law so that contentious issues can be resolved on the basis of a single set of regulations applicable to everyone. Member States, too, must adhere to the Copenhagen criteria, since the countries in line for accession...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Andrew Duff (ALDE). – Mr President, it is clear that we must discuss the idea of associate membership because, as the federal threshold rises, it becomes a great deal more tricky for full membership to be attained. Association would suit those who cannot meet the membership criteria, and it would also suit those who choose not to do so.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE). (RO) Mr President, I firmly believe that, despite the current economic challenges, the European Union’s enlargement guarantees security on our continent. In addition, enlargement is crucial for the Western Balkan states. I wish to draw attention to the following two aspects:

1. I hope that the new European Union candidate country status of Serbia will lead to internal reforms and fulfilment of the accession criteria, including the matter of the Roma minority in Serbia.

2. The EU-Moldova Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreement highlight Moldova’s significant progress and will ensure that Moldovan citizens experience a truly European perspective in the future...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE). (RO) Mr President, according to the enlargement package launched in October, the accession negotiations will emphasise the rule of law. This is why candidate countries and potential candidate countries will need to prioritise institutions that function well, and measures to tackle corruption and organised crime. I cannot but support the Commission’s approach, but I believe that enlargement is too focused on the Western Balkans.


That is why Moldova’s situation is relevant here. Even though the country has made significant progress by undertaking consistent reforms to bring it closer to the Union, it has not been offered any accession prospects. I wish to end by appealing to the Commission and the Council to promptly conclude its association agreement and liberalise the visa regime for Moldova.

 
  
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  Elmar Brok (PPE). (DE) Mr President, like Ms Koppa and many other speakers, I believe that all in all, enlargement is one of the European Union’s great successes. We must honour our pledges, such as those made in Thessaloniki. However, it is equally clear, also based on experience, that the conditions must be fulfilled if enlargement is not to fail. The larger the European Union becomes, the more important it is that the conditions are fulfilled. Otherwise, if necessary, we may have to think about alternative and interim solutions.

The Copenhagen criteria also state that the pace of enlargement must take into account the capacity of the Union to absorb new members. This is not always considered to an adequate extent. During this crisis, it is especially important to consider that over-hasty enlargement without proper fulfilment of the criteria will weaken the European Union. In this crisis in particular, we must make clear that the consolidation of the European Union is a major challenge which we ourselves must address. I believe that the consolidation of the European Union has some element of conditionality for future enlargements as well, for it is directly related to the European Union’s capacity to absorb new members.

 
  
 

(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, this has been an important debate with important messages. What a perfect time to remind ourselves, our Member States, the Commission and our aspirant candidate countries, firstly, that enlargement has never been a part of the problem! It has always been a part of the solution; secondly, that the European Union has never been about building walls, but about eliminating dividing lines through its values and principles; and thirdly, that there is no more powerful instrument of transformation than enlargement. This is an absolutely unique instrument we have in our hands. We need to use it wisely throughout our neighbourhood.

That leads me to the important contributions in this debate. I see six of them. The first one is the contribution to the debate of the interaction of the integration process, going deeper and deeper and, at the same time, extending the European Union. What has made this European Union big and strong? Enlargement alone? I doubt it. Going deeper and deeper? I doubt it. It is a combination of the two. Let us not cut off one our arms now because we are facing many problems and say that the time for the enlargement will come. No! It is this interaction between enlargement and deeper integration which is actually making the European Union a stronger union.

It is in that context, whether we call it an association membership or whatever, that we should have that discussion about a multilayered European Union. Whether we call it political union or a federation of national states, it needs to be an enlargement-friendly Union. At a time when the Member States are debating the various levels of the integration, let us open at some point the issue of to what extent we allow candidate countries – maybe not those which are in the pipeline, but others, to which some of you referred – different ways of being a part of this tremendous European project.

The second message concerns credibility – credibility through the lessons learned and credibility through engagement. We are being creative and we will continue to be creative because it is through that engagement that we are fighting reform fatigue. I am not too concerned about enlargement fatigue. We need to be aware that, if we are not careful enough, enlargement fatigue could turn into reform fatigue and then I would say that we have a problem. Any problem in our neighbourhood is our problem.

A third point concerns economic governance. Let us make sure that aspirant and candidate countries are part of our efforts to address the issues of economic governance. Let us make sure that through the accession negotiations we are not addressing only the acquis of the past, but also the acquis of the future.

A fourth point concerns adequate financing. As far as I am concerned, it is not necessarily about more money. It is about those resources being spent better and this is definitely one of the issues where I need your support.

The fifth point concerns bilateral issues. Enlargement is not about importing open bilateral issues into the European Union. We need to make sure that it does not also blow up the accession negotiation. We need to be sure that the unresolved, unaddressed bilateral issues do not create mines which could blow up before our eyes in the framework of the accession process. I am very open to finding ways – including the one of arbitration, turning to The Hague and so on – to address those bilateral issues in parallel to the accession negotiation process. Let us discuss the deadline by which you would like to see all the bilateral issues solved. I would be in favour of that deadline being the signing of the accession treaty because it is that accession process which creates a strong momentum for addressing those issues.

My last point: let me finish where I started, with the Nobel Peace Prize. If I think about the Nobel Peace Prize – maybe it is my interpretation, maybe I am wrong – I think this European Union got that prize exactly for its ability to put the deepening of integration and enlargement at the service of its people. Needless to say, I see this Nobel Peace Prize as a strong signal to the European Union at this critical time; a signal not to look over our shoulders, not to look back, but to look forward.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LÁSZLÓ SURJÁN
Vice-President

 
  
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  Maria-Eleni Koppa, rapporteur. (EL) Mr President, there are three final points I would like to stress after this extremely interesting debate. Firstly, the need to pay attention to the social dimension of enlargement, an issue which has been ignored for many years. We hope the Commission will place emphasis on social questions, in the context of the evaluation of negotiation chapter 19. It must ensure that the trade unions and civil society participate in the screening and monitoring processes and that they are given targeted support through the pre-accession aid mechanism.

Secondly, an issue which has been much discussed here is bilateral disputes. Bilateral issues and bilateral disputes are a reality. So I agree with the Commissioner that they must be resolved as soon as possible. The Union does not have the luxury of bringing in outstanding issues, and there must be mechanisms – and here we can all be very constructive – that will contribute to this.

The third point is the financial aspect. The Union must have adequate financial resources to meet the level of its steadily increasing ambitions. I therefore do not consider a significant reduction in resources, in the region of 9 %, to be acceptable (in chapter 4, under the next financial framework).

To conclude, my fellow Member Kristian Vigenin (rapporteur on IPA-II) and I emphasised the need to simplify the pre-accession aid procedures, and I thank the Commissioner, in particular, for his response on this central issue. With my fellow Members, in the spirit expressed in this discussion, I would like to congratulate Commissioner Füle on his untiring efforts to move the grand plan for enlargement forward. We are at a crucial turning-point, and our decisions and the next steps we take will decide the entire future of this enterprise.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 22 November 2012.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing. (RO) Mr President, for candidate countries and potential candidate countries, the process of accession to the European Union represents the path to consolidating the rule of law, respect for fundamental values and the adoption of a social inclusion and protection model. The European Union remains attractive not only due to its economic model, but also its social model. The Union cannot impose merciless austerity measures without losing part of its identity. That is why I am calling for an end to drastic budget cuts and measures to encourage positive social transformation in its future members. The Commission must defend and propagate the European social model, the symbol of the Union and foundation of European aspirations.

 
  
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  Kinga Gál (PPE), in writing. (HU) In my opinion, the enlargement process is not just something that applies to the countries seeking accession to the European Union. In the process of enlargement there are lessons to be learned that apply to the Member States too. One example is that to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the enlargement strategy, Member States must also adhere to all of the Copenhagen criteria. This can help prevent a situation where candidate countries are expected to meet tougher conditions, for example with regard to protection of national minorities, than some of the Member States. It is important for the EU to monitor countries’ adherence to their commitments post-accession and not just call them to account during the accession negotiations. Traditional national minorities play a major role in the current enlargement package as these communities are present in significant numbers in the candidate countries. Mutual understanding and historical reconciliation are vitally important if these countries are to be able to set out on the road to Europe. For this reason, they need to be taught and to learn about each other’s history, language and cultural heritage. I would like to conclude by underlining that civil society also has a major role to play in the enlargement process, and not only the organs of state. It is therefore vital to encourage greater involvement by non-state actors, notably the social partners, and promote the development of close partnerships and cooperation during the accession process on the part of both the candidate countries and the Member States. After all, none of the actors concerned would be able to resolve the problems on their own.

 
  
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  Kinga Göncz (S&D), in writing. (HU) Over the course of its history, the European Union has managed to steer numerous countries towards democratic consolidation and a market economy. The countries of the Western Balkans, still at war with each other a decade and a half ago, have also embarked on this path. Next year we welcome Croatia as the 28th Member State of the European Union, while the other successor states of former Yugoslavia and Albania are also coming ever closer to accession, albeit at differing speeds. Accession calls for a major effort on the part of candidate countries. It is right and proper that the criteria have been tightened and that the judicial system and fundamental rights have been placed centre-stage in the process. It is important to ensure that civil society and non-state actors also play their part in the ongoing dialogue between Brussels and the capitals of these countries. If we want the European Union to remain an attractive community we must ensure that we do not show disregard for our acquis. I support the clause in the report calling upon the European Commission to work out a detailed proposal for a monitoring mechanism to assess Member States’ continued compliance with the EU’s fundamental values. Only by doing so can the EU’s greatest success so far – enlargement – retain its credibility.

 
  
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  Boris Zala (S&D), in writing. (SK) The process for the accession of Turkey to the European Union has already lasted a decade. It will certainly last much longer. But the heart of the matter lies not in the length, but in the integrity of the whole process. Negotiation of the different chapters is a complex technical and political problem, particularly in view of the situation in Cyprus. It is quite clear that this situation can only be remedied through joint efforts, for there are failings on the EU side too, mainly in the imprudent acceptance of just one part of Cyprus as a member of the EU. Turkey too must show good will. This definitely applies for the observance of fundamental human rights, which is certainly not perfect, but Turkey has made great strides in the last decade. Also, by accepting Turkey, the EU would encourage that country to play a positive role in the democratisation of north Africa. Turkey represents a model, to which most Arab countries aspire, while turning their back on Iran. A greater contribution to the fight against the threat of terrorism can hardly be imagined. Fellow Members, it is in this context that we must look again at Turkish membership of the EU without any prejudices.

 
Posljednje ažuriranje: 4. ožujak 2013.Pravna napomena