Panel discussion:''The Future of Europe'' Remarks by Governor Mr Nicholas C. Garganas - Cultural Days of the ECB - Frankfurt, October 24, 2007
02/11/2007 - Speeches
I am delighted to be taking part in this
discussion on the future of Europe. My remarks will deal with the issue of
EU enlargement has been a long and involved
process. The EU has expanded on five occasions, growing from six members to 27
members. Beginning with the First Enlargement in 1973, enlargement has been at
the core of the EU’s development. It has provided both political and economic
The first four enlargements involved only two or
three countries on average and took place every 10 years or so. The fifth
enlargement was much larger; it comprised 12 countries and took place in two
stages - - in May 2004 and January of this year. Although it was larger, it went
smoothly and was a success. The 12 countries were integrated into the EU without
any problems for the EU or for the countries themselves. It brought over 100
million new citizens, with rising incomes, into the EU.
Politically, enlargement has helped to overcome
the division of Europe and succeeded in establishing a regional system based on
democracy, and a respect for human rights and the rule of law. It has helped the
EU respond to major changes, including the fall of dictatorships and the
collapse of communism, bringing stability and solidarity among its members.
Economically, enlargement has helped to increase
prosperity and competitiveness, enabling the enlarged Union to respond better to
the challenges of globalization. In sum, enlargement has increased prosperity in
the Union and has strengthened the security of all EU citizens.
In a continent the history of which had been
marked by turbulence and conflicts, these political and economic benefits are
not small achievements.
2. Now let me say
something about the present enlargement agenda. As you know it covers Turkey,
Croatia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which are at different
stages on the road towards EU membership.
These countries have been given by the Council
the clear perspective of becoming EU members once they fulfill the necessary
However, these countries each face some
difficulties, especially since some enlargement fatigue appears to have set in.
After growing from six members to 27 members, we should expect some slowdown in
the pace and extent of adjustment. Indeed, it is worth noting that the latest
enlargement took place after many years of careful preparation.
With regard to Turkey, politically, there has
been some opposition to that country’s entrance. However, the EU has to honour
its existing commitments towards countries already in the process of
negotiations, provided that countries can fulfill all the necessary conditions.
Turkey has continued to make progress in
reforms. However, the pace has slowed during the past year. Significant further
efforts are needed to fulfill fully the Copenhagen political criteria. In
particular, concrete steps are needed for the normalization of bilateral
relations with all EU member states.
All three countries should ultimately be
admitted into the EU but sufficient time should be allowed for the necessary
reforms to be implemented. Their dates of entry into the Union depend on the
results of their reforms. Each country will be judged on its own merits.
3a. What should be the
next round of enlargement? Potential candidates are the remaining countries of
the Western Balkans, that is Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and
Serbia, including Kosovo.
That the future for these countries holds the
prospect of eventual EU accession is widely acknowledged and has been mentioned
on several occasions, for example by the European Council in Feira in 2000 and
the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Thessaloniki in 2003. Each of these countries
will be invited to join the EU once the accession criteria have been met.
Nevertheless, this group of potential candidate countries still has some way to
go before reaching that point.
The speed of accession is determined by how
quickly countries meet the political and economic criteria.
The political criteria require that countries
ensure the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law,
the protection of human rights and respect for, and protection of, minorities.
The two basic economic criteria are, first, the establishment of a functioning
market economy, and, second, the ability to withstand competitive pressure in
Meeting these basic criteria requires
determination and time. Economic reforms have been initiated – and are
progressing – in many of these countries. Nevertheless, these countries continue
to face challenges. They are, however, making genuine transition efforts and,
given sufficient time, I expect they will be able to prepare their economies for
membership. The recently acceded Member States have proved that this is
3b. Although the speed of
further enlargement of the EU depends on the pace of reforms in candidate, or
potential candidate, countries, this process is only one part of the EU’s
enlargement policy. The other part concerns the capacity of the EU to integrate
In this connection, I believe that the EU should
look at its own governance and adjust it where necessary in order to ensure that
its institutions and decision-making processes remain effective and accountable,
and that it can maintain its capacity to function, for the sake of current
Member States as well as in view of further enlargement.
The institutional reform treaty approved by the
EU summit in Lisbon on October 19, reshapes the main institutions of the Union –
the European Council, the Commission and the Parliament – and takes us a good
way toward enhancing the EU’s capacity to function. The new reform treaty should
be ratified as soon as possible and at least by the time that the next new
member is likely to be ready to join the Union.
The prospect of EU accession offered to the
countries of the Western Balkans and to Turkey is an important catalyst for
reform in these countries. There are clear benefits on the whole for the EU in
terms of growth, stability and security. However, these need to be better
communicated to the public. It is essential to listen to citizens and address
their concerns. Although enlargement has been a success story, in my view we
have not done as well as we might have in communicating the benefits that this
policy of enlargement has brought to citizens of the enlarged EU. For example,
earlier concerns about the effects of enlargement on Labor migration and on
wages have proved to be unfounded
4. What about enlargement
beyond the Western Balkans and Turkey? Should there be a further enlargement of
the EU after the integration of the Western Balkans and Turkey?
A key issue we will need to address is the
ultimate borders of the European Union. This issue is not an easy one to address
because European borders are not clearly defined. The European identity combines
geographical, historical and cultural elements. Ultimately, the shared
experience of ideas, values and historical interactions that contribute to the
European identity are qualities that change over time. Therefore, the EU will
need to continue to evolve.
The legal basis of the enlargement is Article 49
of the Treaty on European Union, which states that “Any European State, which
respects the principles set out in Article 6(1) may apply to become a member of
the Union”. However, this treaty provision does not mean that all European
countries must apply, or that the EU must accept all applications.
A great strength of the EU has always been its
ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and I am confident that it will
continue to do so in the future. In this way, the EU will continue to ensure a
prosperous and secure environment for its citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your