Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


COM(01) 553

Commission Communication: Information note to the European Council on a mid-term review of the implementation of the enlargement strategy.

Legal base:
Document originated: 2 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 5 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 16 October 2001
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 26 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
Discussed in Council: 19 October 2001 Ghent European Council
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


24.1  This information note was produced by the Commission for the Ghent European Council on 19 October, at the behest of the Belgian Presidency.

24.2  The Nice European Council in December 2000 endorsed a timetable for the enlargement negotiations. The "road map" allocated all remaining issues for negotiation, divided into their relevant "chapters", such as Transport, Taxation, Environment, to the three following presidencies of Sweden, Belgium and Spain. The Commission recalls that the Göteborg European Council in June concluded that:

    "Provided that progress towards meeting the accession criteria continues at an unabated pace, the road map should make it possible to complete negotiations by the end of 2002 for those candidate countries that are ready. The objective is that they should participate in the European Parliament elections of 2004 as members".

24.3  The Commission concludes that the roadmap has proved a valuable tool in focussing both the Member States and the candidate countries on achieving real progress in the negotiations. At the time it was drawn up the candidates had closed between eight (Romania) and 23 (Cyprus) chapters. Of the 31 chapters, 29 had been opened with all the candidates that began negotiations in 1998, and between 15 and 29 with those that started negotiations in 2000. It stresses the effort that the candidates and the Union must continue to make, commenting that the candidates must continue with preparations to meet fully the Copenhagen accession criteria.

24.4  The Communication notes that the EU has agreed Common Positions on all of the nine chapters allocated to the Swedish Presidency, and has closed 7 of these chapters with all or almost all of the candidates (Free Movement of Goods, Free Movement of Services, Free Movement of Capital, Company Law, Social Policy, Culture and Audio-Visual, and External Relations). The chapters on Free Movement of Persons and Environment have been closed with about half of the candidates. The Communication reviews the situation for each of these chapters in turn.

24.5  The Commission also analyses the progress made in all nine of the chapters allocated to the Belgian Presidency, and comments that work is relatively advanced on four (Fisheries, Customs Union, Justice and Home Affairs, and Financial Control). The Communication highlights five chapters that require particular attention, which it summarises as:

    Transport: the main issue is potential temporary restrictions on access to the national road haulage markets of the EU15 (cabotage);

    Taxation: several candidates have asked temporarily to maintain VAT zero-rates for certain products and to increase gradually excise duties for cigarettes up to the EU minimum level;

    Agriculture (veterinary and phytosanitary aspects — direct payments and supply management systems are not being addressed at this stage): the Commission considers that particular attention should be paid to the issues of animal welfare and public health in slaughterhouses and dairies;

    Justice and Home Affairs: the Commission argues that, on the one hand, enlargement should not cause any new division of Europe, especially in the regions where close links exist. On the other hand, the future external border of the Union must meet the security needs of today's EU citizens. In addition, new Member States can only be fully integrated into the Schengen system when they are able to apply fully Schengen standards; and

    Energy: now that EU recommendations on nuclear safety have been transmitted to the candidate countries, and

    —their positions regarding these recommendations needs to be examined with a view to provisionally closing the chapter.

24.6  The Communication also notes the need to settle the outstanding chapters of Free Movement of Persons and Free Movement of Capital with those candidates yet to close them. Poland, Estonia and Slovakia have still to close Free Movement of Persons, and the chapter is not yet open with Romania. Poland, Malta, Romania and Bulgaria have still to close the Free Movement of Capital chapter).

24.7  The Communication emphasises that progress in the negotiations must be based not only on adoption of the acquis communautaire,[72] but also on their implementation and enforcement. It notes that the Commission's annual progress reports, due in November, will pay particular attention to the candidates' administrative capacity to implement the acquis. The Commission will judge that a candidate is ready to accede only if it has fulfilled all the criteria for accession. Each candidate will be judged on its own merits. The Commission notes that help will be available to those countries not in a position to join the EU by 2004.

24.8  The Communication makes particular reference to the progress made by Turkey, both economically and politically. It highlights the work still to be done, notably on strengthening democracy and protecting human rights. It also expresses the hope that Turkey will play a constructive role in the effort to find a resolution to the Cyprus problem.

24.9  The Communication stresses the historical and political significance of the enlargement project. It concludes that the process of enlargement has contributed decisively to stability, democracy, and political and economic reform across the European continent.

The Government's view

24.10  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 26 October 2001, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) says:

    "The UK is committed to an early and successful enlargement. In his speech in Warsaw in October 2000, the Prime Minister called for the first candidates to join the EU in time to participate in the 2004 European Parliament elections. He was instrumental in helping the Swedish Presidency secure this as a declared EU objective at the Gothenburg European Council in June.

    "The Government agrees with the Commission's conclusion that the roadmap is a valuable tool to ensure that both Member States and Candidates work towards this timetable. At Gothenburg, the EU confirmed that the Belgian and Spanish Presidencies would pursue the road map with undiminished vigour. We are committed to helping them do so and welcome the good progress achieved so far under the Belgian Presidency.

    "The Government takes the following position on the chapters marked for special attention over the course of the Belgian Presidency:

    Transport: the Government supports full liberalisation of the EU road transport sector, from accession, to those new Member States that comply with the acquis in that area;

    Taxation: tobacco smuggling is a significant problem for the UK. 1 in 4 packets of cigarettes in the UK have been illegally imported from countries with lower excise rates. There is a fear that enlargement will further increase UK vulnerability to smuggling;

    Agriculture: the Government considers that steady progress has been made in this area. Further technical consultations will be necessary to reach agreement on candidate compliance with the acquis. The Government strongly supports CAP reform and enlargement, and is pursuing both objectives in parallel. Although CAP reform is clearly a high priority and is necessary in itself, it is not necessary before enlargement takes place. But for enlargement to be successful in the long term, further reforms will be needed;

    Justice and Home Affairs: the Government welcomes the considerable progress made under the Belgian Presidency in this area, notably on Schengen;

    Energy: the Government agrees with the recommendations set out in the Atomic Questions Group's (AQG) June report, to which experts from all Member States contributed. Commitments to close non-upgradeable units of Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) in candidate countries must be respected. Concerning upgradeable units, where candidates have agreed to comply with the AQG's recommendations, these should not be an obstacle to accession; and

    Free Movement of Capital / Persons: the EU has agreed a Common Position on these chapters. We look forward to closing this chapter with all candidates that have not yet done so.

    "The Government welcomes the Commission's intention to emphasise in its annual progress reports the importance of implementing and enforcing the acquis, and the need for candidate countries to develop the administrative capacity to do so. This is a vital part of the enlargement process. It will be particularly important in areas such as the Single Market, border security, food safety, corruption and judicial reform.

    "The Government is committed to the EU's principle of differentiation: allowing each candidate to progress in the negotiations on its own merits. And we welcome the Commission's intention to develop an enlargement strategy for those candidates that expect to accede to the EU after 2004.

    "The Government agrees that the recent adoption of a series of constitutional amendments by the Turkish Grand National Assembly is an important step forward in its candidature, as set out at the Helsinki European Council. As the paper notes, Turkey has a valuable contribution to make to the UN Secretary-General's efforts to achieve a settlement. The UN Security Council, in its press statement of 26 September, expressed disappointment at the unjustified decision by the Turkish side to decline the Secretary General's invitation to a further set of talks and noted that progress could only be made at the negotiating table. The UK continues to urge Turkey to contribute as fully as possible to the UN settlement process and do all it can to get Denktash back to the negotiating table.

    "The Government agrees that enlargement is an important historical opportunity and crucial to securing peace, prosperity and stability on our continent. The events of 11 September make the need for enlargement all the more evident. Enlargement brings with it many benefits for the UK. It will create the largest single market in the world, with nearly 500 million consumers. UK companies will benefit from cheaper inputs, a larger and more diverse labour market, technology transfers and economies of scale. Independent research estimates that enlargement will create 300,000 new jobs across the current EU. Consumers will benefit from a wider range of goods at cheaper prices. And enlargement will enhance and extend co-operation in tackling environmental problems as well as in fighting international crime, drug smuggling and terrorism."


24.11  Turkey is the only applicant country which has yet to meet the political part of the Copenhagen accession criteria and which, therefore, has not yet started formal negotiations with the EU. The performance of other applicants against all three sections of the criteria continue to be measured and the Commission progress reports, due to be adopted on 13 November, can be expected to spell out areas of weakness where greater efforts are required.

24.12  We expect that the progress reports will cover the same ground as this mid-term review, in greater detail. We, therefore, see no need to hold it under scrutiny and we clear the document.

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