RECOMMENDATION on the application by the Czech Republic to become a member of the European Union
(AA-AFNS 1-6 – C5-0115/2003 – 2003/0901(AVC))

26 March 2003 - ***

Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy
Rapporteur: Jürgen Schröder

Procedure : 2003/0901(AVC)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected :  
A5-0089/2003
Texts tabled :
A5-0089/2003
Debates :
Votes :
Texts adopted :

PROCEDURAL PAGE

By letter of 20 February 2003] the Council requested Parliament's assent pursuant to Article 49 of the EU Treaty to the application by the Czech Republic to become a member of the European Union (AA‑AFNS 1-6 – 2003/0901(AVC)) .

At the sitting of 7 April 2003 the President of Parliament will announce that he had referred this application, and the draft treaty on the accession of the Czech Republic, to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy as the committee responsible and to all committees interested for their opinion (C5-0115/2003).

At its meeting of 21 January 2003 the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy appointed Jürgen Schröder rapporteur.

It considered the application for accession, the draft Treaty on Accession, the Commission opinion and the draft recommendation at its meeting of 17-19 March 2003.

At the latter meeting it adopted the draft legislative resolution by 54 votes to 2, with 1 abstention.

The following were present for the vote: Elmar Brok, chairman; Christos Zacharakis, vice-chairman; Jürgen Schröder, rapporteur; Alexandros Alavanos (for Sami Naïr), Ole Andreasen, Per-Arne Arvidsson, Alexandros Baltas, André Brie, Véronique De Keyser, Rosa M. Díez González, Hélène Flautre (for Joost Lagendijk), Glyn Ford, Pernille Frahm (for Luigi Vinci), Michael Gahler, Per Gahrton, Gerardo Galeote Quecedo, Jas Gawronski, Vitaliano Gemelli (for Franco Marini), Alfred Gomolka, Vasco Graça Moura (for José Pacheco Pereira), Klaus Hänsch, Magdalene Hoff, Ulpu Iivari (for Catherine Lalumière), Christoph Werner Konrad (for Karl von Wogau), Efstratios Korakas, Armin Laschet, Nelly Maes (for Reinhold Messner), Cecilia Malmström, Pedro Marset Campos, Hugues Martin, Linda McAvan, Emilio Menéndez del Valle, Philippe Morillon, Pasqualina Napoletano, Raimon Obiols i Germà, Arie M. Oostlander, Doris Pack (for Alain Lamassoure), Hans-Gert Poettering (for Geoffrey Van Orden), Jacques F. Poos, Bernd Posselt (for Amalia Sartori), Luís Queiró, Reinhard Rack (for John Walls Cushnahan pursuant to Rules 153(2)), José Ribeiro e Castro (for Jean-Charles Marchiani pursuant to Rules 153(2)), Lennart Sacrédeus (for David Sumberg), Jannis Sakellariou, José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, Jacques Santer, Elisabeth Schroedter, Ioannis Souladakis, Ursula Stenzel, Ilkka Suominen, Hannes Swoboda, Charles Tannock, Gary Titley (for Mário Soares), Joan Vallvé, Bob van den Bos, Paavo Väyrynen, Demetrio Volcic, Jan Marinus Wiersma and Matti Wuori.

The recommendation was tabled on 26 March 2003.

DRAFT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

Legislative resolution on the application by the Czech Republic to become a member of the European Union (AA-AFNS 1-6 - C5-0115/2003 - 2003/0901(AVC))

(Assent procedure)

The European Parliament,

-   having regard to the application by the Czech Republic to become a member of the European Union,

-   having regard to the Council's request for Parliament's assent pursuant to Article 49 of the EU Treaty (C5-0115/2003),

-   having regard to the Commission's opinion (COM(2003) 79)[1],

-   having regard to the draft Treaty on the Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia to the European Union,

-   having regard to Rules 86 and 96(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

-   having regard to its resolution of 9 April 2003 on the conclusions of the Copenhagen negotiations on enlargement[2],

-   having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy (A5-0089/2003),

A.   whereas the conditions for the admission of applicant countries and the adjustments that their accession will involve have been included in the draft Treaty on Accession, and whereas Parliament must be consulted if substantial changes are made to that text,

B.   whereas this assent will not determine its position on the adjustment of the financial perspective to cater for enlargement according to Article 25 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 6 May 1999, and whereas the figures entered in Annex XV of the draft Treaty on Accession constitute the minimum threshold necessary for the adjustment of the financial perspective,

1.   Gives its assent to the application by the Czech Republic to become a member of the European Union;

2.   Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Czech Republic.

  • [1] Not yet published in the OJ
  • [2] Vote foreseen in plenary on 9 April 2003 (report by Mr Elmar Brok (A5-0081/2003))

EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The Czech Republic submitted its application for membership of the European Union on 17 January 1996.

Its application was part of the historic process of ending the division of Europe and consolidating democracy across the whole continent.

In accordance with the provisions of Article 49 of the Treaty the Commission adopted an initial opinion on the Czech Republic's application for membership which assessed the accession criteria laid down by the Copenhagen European Council in June 1993.

The Council conclusions provided that those candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe wishing to become Members of the European Union had to satisfy the following conditions:

  • Stability of democratic institutions and of the rule of law, respect for human rights and protection of minorities
  • Existence of a functioning market economy, as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union
  • Ability to take on the obligations of EU membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

A judgment on these three criteria – political, economic, and the ability to apply the acquis – also depends on the capacity of a country's administrative and legal system to implement and apply the principles of democracy and the market economy, and also to enforce the acquis in practice.

In its opinion on the Czech Republic's application for membership, in 1997 the Commission concluded that:

  • The Czech Republic presents the characteristics of a democracy, with stable institutions guaranteeing the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities
  • The Czech Republic can be regarded as a functioning market economy, and should be able to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union in the medium term.
  • The Czech Republic could be in a position, in the medium term, to apply the acquis in full if it continues its efforts to transpose the acquis relating to the internal market, and works harder on implementing it. Particular efforts, including investment, will be needed to bring itself into line with the acquis with regard to agriculture, the environment and energy. Further administrative reforms will be essential for the Czech Republic to acquire the structures for the full application and implementation of the acquis.

Consequently, the Luxembourg European Council of 12 and 13 December 1997 decided to open accession negotiations with the Czech Republic. Since Spring 1998 the European Union has therefore been negotiating with the Czech Republic on the 31 chapters of the EU acquis.

On 12 and 13 December 2002 the Copenhagen European Council also concluded the final, difficult negotiating chapters. The accession treaty was drawn up and is annexed to this resolution for voting.

As the Commission stated in its last regular report, the Czech Republic continues to fulfil the political criteria, and is now a functioning market economy which can cope with competitive pressure in the single internal market. It thereby fulfils the second Copenhagen criterion. In addition, the Czech Republic has managed to convince the Commission and the Member States, through the transposition of the EU acquis that it has completed so far and still plans to put into effect, that by the time of accession it will have transposed the EU acquis as far as transitional arrangements, and will also be in a position to ensure the application of that law by the administration and the courts. The Czech Republic thereby also fulfils the third Copenhagen criterion.

Despite the assessment set out above, the Czech Republic's accession leaves unresolved questions which the European Parliament has been urging for years should be clarified, and a response to which the European public is still awaiting.

On 15 April 1999 Parliament called on the Czech Government, in the same spirit of reconciliatory statements made by President Havel, to repeal the surviving laws and decrees from 1945 and 1946, insofar as they concerned the expulsion of individual ethnic groups in the former Czechoslovakia[1]. The grounds for this request, which is still topical, are unresolved questions concerning decrees issued by the former Czechoslovak President Beneš, and in particular concerning what is known as the law on exclusion from criminal sanctions (Law No 115 of 8 May 1946), which has still not been repealed.

In 2000 and 2001, at the rapporteur's prompting, the European Parliament explicitly reminded the Czech Government about the review of these laws[2]. In 2002 reports by legal experts were presented to Parliament. In the three authors' common conclusions it was stated that Law No 115 of 8 May 1946 was repugnant to human rights and all fundamental legal principles[3]. Law No 115 of 8 May 1946 granted blanket legitimacy to the most serious criminal acts and even post-war crimes. The legal experts therefore expressed the view that the Czech Republic should formally recognise this injustice.

The European Parliament subsequently concluded once again, in November 2002, that from the perspective of modern law and justice, Law No 115 of 8 May 1946 had no raison d'être[4]. Parliament also declared that a political gesture of reconciliation from the Czech Republic would be desirable.

We are still lacking a confidence-building move on the part of the Parliament and Government of the Czech Republic. Every Czech Government has so far refused to make any statement about the immunity law of 8 May 1946, which is still in force and which is contrary to the rule of law. We welcome, therefore, as a first and encouraging step, the statement by the President of the Czech Republic,Václav Klaus, on the occasion of the anniversary of the events of 15 March 1939, in which he described the expulsion of the German population from Czechoslovakia and the violence committed against Germans after the war as unacceptable from today's point of view. Political gestures in the spirit of reconciliation are the cornerstone of European unity.

Through accession the Czech Republic will also belong to the European community of values, the Member States of which share them, respect them and undertake to promote them. Putting the principles of respect for human rights and the rule of law into practice is a continuing challenge which is one of the fundamental obligations of the Member States of the European Union. The rapporteur considers that following the accession of the Czech Republic fundamental constitutional legal standards, also encompassing guaranteed respect for human rights, which in turn includes the protection of minorities, will be strengthened by European law. The European Parliament will make sure that the stated fundamental values of the Czech Republic will not be undermined in future, i.e. after its accession, either. In the spirit of forward-looking reconciliation among the peoples of Europe the European Union will contribute constructively to the resolution of the remaining issues in dispute between individual States and ethnic groups.

  • [1] Resolution of 15 April 1999, OJ C 219, 30.7.1999.
  • [2] Resolutions of 4 October 2000 and 5 September 2001.
  • [3] Legal opinion on the Beneš Decrees and the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union, European Parliament, Directorate-General for Research, Working Paper 10-2002.
  • [4] Resolution of 20 November 2002.