Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report





COM(02) 281

Commission Report to the Council: Explaining Europe's Enlargement.

Legal base:


Document originated:

5 June 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

13 June 2002


Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Basis of consideration:

EM of 26 June 2002

Previous Committee Report:


Presented to Council:

Seville European Council of 21/22 June 2002

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared, but further information requested


The Commission Communication

    1. In this report, presented to the Seville European Council on 21 June[41], the Commission outlines progress in implementing its "Communication Strategy" to explain the advantages of enlargement, and the process, to EU citizens both in Member States and candidate countries. It also indicates the future direction of the strategy.
    2. The Commission says that a project on the scale of the next enlargement requires a communication strategy spread over a number of years if it is to keep the people of the EU and the candidate countries informed and to ensure their participation in the process and support for it. During the period of ratification, public opinion will play a key role, with referendums likely to take place in most candidate countries. Parliaments will be directly involved, beginning with the European Parliament, which will be asked to give its assent.
    3. Responsibility for implementing the strategy lies with the Commission Representations in the Member States and Delegations in the candidate countries, with DG Enlargement in Brussels playing a co-ordinating role and managing the website[42].
    4. In the first stage of the communication strategy, the Commission Representations in the Member States worked through informed or influential bodies to address the fears and concerns of specific groups. Partners included the Representations of the European Parliament, civil society and national, regional or local authorities. Activities included public debates, seminars, publications, including a media pack, websites and study visits.
    5. The aim was to explain the process and provide information on the future Member States. Awareness of enlargement in the Member States is 'not yet sufficient', the Commission says. Citizens in Member States that border the candidate countries are particularly concerned, but many people across the EU fear that enlargement will increase unemployment and crime, and adversely affect the environment.
    6. The Commission recommends the Council to give a strong endorsement to the message that enlargement will strengthen the ability of the EU to confront the challenges of the new century. Co-operation among the EU institutions and current and future Member States in explaining enlargement is essential. The area of peace, prosperity and security will be extended and, the Commission argues, the inclusion of new Member States, with their acceptance of the rules and policies of the EU, will improve its capacity to safeguard Europe's environment, to combat crime, to improve social conditions, and to manage migration pressures.
    7. The next stage of the strategy will address the general public more directly. The Communication notes that in the Central and Eastern European candidate countries the gap between those for and against EU enlargement has been narrowing, with support for membership dropping. This trend has been influenced mainly by the perception in those countries that they are being put at a disadvantage in the accession negotiations.
    8. The report makes the following points:

    • Member States need to increase public awareness of the candidate countries and the enlargement process, including progress made under the pre-accession aid programmes;


    • the Commission will maintain a decentralised approach, responding in the different countries to their specific concerns;

    • national governments are responsible for explaining enlargement to their publics. The Commission will stimulate or develop partnerships and provide objective information;

    • the media is key as it is the main source through which the public receive information;

    • each candidate country is responsible for informing Member State populations about itself and each one needs to do more in this area;

    • an EU communications strategy explaining the wider benefits of the EU is being developed. EU institutions and current and future Member States need to co-operate and complement each other in their efforts;

    • in order to promote openness, transparency and debate, the Commission will publish more information on enlargement on the Internet;

    • a study should be undertaken to draw together previous work on the benefits of enlargement, and the results should be made available more widely to EU citizens. The "overwhelming" conclusion of studies already published at European and national level has been that, if conducted well, enlargement will bring major benefits to the Union and to the acceding countries; and

    • it is important to maintain a commitment to continue communication activities after accession, to ensure a smooth transition to an enlarged Union.

    1. In conclusion, the report says that, as well as addressing the specific concerns of each country, the strategy should be to produce a message for the Union as a whole. This should be that enlargement is "a win-win game".
    2. EuroBarometer

    3. Annexed to the report are responses to EuroBarometer questionnaires on support for enlargement in the EU Member States and voting intentions on membership in the applicant countries. These were carried out in October and November 2001 and show average support for enlargement of 51% in the Member States, an 8% rise since Spring 2001, and 66% support for membership in the applicant States.
    4. Support in the Member States was lowest in France at 39%, with the UK a close second at 41%. In both countries the percentage had risen modestly. It was highest in Greece at 74% and Spain and Denmark at 69%, a rise of 19% in both cases. Amongst the applicants, support was highest in Bulgaria and Romania at 80% and 84%, with Hungary next at 71% and Turkey at 68%. It was lowest in Estonia and Malta at 39% and 40%. In no Member State except France and no candidate country are there more people opposing enlargement than supporting it.
    5. The Government's view

    6. The Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) welcomes the Commission's report and agrees it is important for all Member States and candidate countries to play an active role in communicating the benefits of enlargement to EU citizens. He says that the UK has been a champion of enlargement and recalls that, 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 and was instrumental in securing EU agreement to this at the Gothenburg European Council in June 2001.
    7. The Minister then comments:

"The benefits of enlargement are numerous. It will:

    • boost prosperity, adding up to 1.75 billion to UK GDP, and 300,000 jobs across the EU and increase candidates' GDP by up to 1.5% and create up to 2 million jobs in the candidate countries;

    • increase stability. Compare the benefits to the EU, stemming from the entrenchment of democracy and human rights in countries such as Slovenia which have chosen the EU path, with countries which did not, such as Yugoslavia under Milosevic;

    • increase security, bringing the candidates up to EU standards and working together with them to tackle illegal immigration, trafficking, and organised crime.

"The Government is committed to raising awareness of enlargement in the UK. We are involved in a variety of activities including:

    • in March 2002, the UK and Netherlands, with Commission support, hosted the first communications seminar on EU enlargement. This brought together enlargement communications experts from the candidate and member state governments, NGOs and the private sector to identify effective strategies and share best practice;
    • the Foreign and Commonwealth Office produces a quarterly newsletter on enlargement and a brochure 'Britain: A Champion of Enlargement' which goes out to a variety of opinion formers, libraries and academics. The FCO also maintains a dedicated enlargement website;
    • Ministers and officials engage regularly in speeches, seminars, debates and media briefings on enlargement; and
    • a range of cultural events focussed on the candidates are planned for the Autumn, such as film, art and football, with the aim of challenging stereotypes and raising awareness of our common European heritage."


    1. As the Minister acknowledges, raising awareness of enlargement will be particularly crucial in 2003, when all Member States' parliaments will be asked to ratify the Accession Treaty and candidate countries will hold referendums on their accession. Whether they vote for or against enlargement, it is essential to democracy that voters should be well informed. The Treaty is expected to be signed in Spring 2003.
    2. The report demonstrates the level of activity undertaken to ensure that the public is informed. The EuroBarometer gives an interesting indication of views, but no analysis is provided of the factors which have influenced the movements recorded. The Commission observes in its report that the greatest influence on views in the candidate countries is that of developments in the accession negotiations, with support dropping when the public perceive that they are being put at a disadvantage. We ask the Minister if he is able to tell us on what evidence this observation is based. Whilst it is not surprising, the need to maintain public support has been a common theme of the candidate countries' negotiators.
    3. It would also be instructive to know what influences have affected the changes in the Member States. Why, for instance, has support for enlargement risen by 19% in Sweden and Denmark, but only by 6% in the UK and 4% in France?
    4. We clear the document.


41  At the request of the 10 December 2001 General Affairs Council. Back

42 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 July 2002