Select Committee on European Communities Twenty-First Report


9 November 1999

By the Select Committee appointed to consider Community proposals, whether in draft or otherwise, to obtain all necessary information about them, and to make reports on those which, in the opinion of the Committee, raise important questions of policy or principle, and on other questions to which the Committee considers that the special attention of the House should be drawn.


Enlargement of the EU: progress and problems

12053/99Composite Paper—Reports on progress towards accession by each of the candidate countries
12060/99Regular report from the Commission on Bulgaria's progress towards accession
12061/99Regular report from the Commission on Cyprus' progress towards accession
12062/99Regular report from the Commission on the Czech Republic's progress towards accession
12063/99Regular report from the Commission on Estonia's progress towards accession
12064/99Regular report from the Commission on Hungary's progress towards accession
12065/99Regular report from the Commission on Latvia's progress towards accession
12066/99Regular report from the Commission on Lithuania's progress towards accession
12067/99Regular report from the Commission on Malta's progress towards accession
12068/99Regular report from the Commission on Poland's progress towards accession
12069/99Regular report from the Commission on Romania's progress towards accession
12070/99Regular report from the Commission on Slovakia's progress towards accession
12079/99Regular report from the Commission on Slovenia's progress towards accession
12154/99Regular report from the Commission on Turkey's progress towards accession


1. We have always recognised that the path to further enlargement of the European Union would not be easy. The applicant countries would need to make tremendous economic and social changes, and the European Union itself would need to make major policy and institutional reforms. We undertook this enquiry because we were concerned that the process might be slowing down.

2. The events of the last two years have added force to the pressure for enlargement, and an increasing urgency is being recognised. In his speech to the European Parliament on 13 October 1999, the President of the European Commission spoke of

He described this as a "grand and worthwhile project [which] we call 'the construction of Europe'".

3. The issue of enlargement is so significant that we make no apology for revisiting it. Nor do we apologise for repeating the opening words of our last Report on the subject, made in November 1997:

4. Already in 1992, when we examined the applications for membership from Turkey, Austria, Cyprus, Malta, Sweden and Finland, we noted that consideration of those applications had

    "coincided with and to some extent been influenced by the dramatic changes in Europe—the reunification of Germany, the collapse of communism, the re-emergence of independent States in Central and Eastern Europe, the break-up of the Soviet Union"[2].

In that Report, we urged the development of economic partnership and political co-operation with the Central and Eastern European States, pointing out that various arrangements[3] short of full membership were already being used "as a means of drawing countries closer towards their long term goal of Community membership"[4]. But the potential difficulties were already apparent. We warned that "to encourage any country to join the Community before it can play a full part in the Single Market would be to threaten that country's future and to weaken the Community"[5]. Transition arrangements would be necessary; there would be budgetary consequences for the existing Member States; and the review of the Community's structure and rules planned for 1996 "must look ahead to the second and third decades of the 21st century when there may be over 25 Member States"[6]. We have returned to these issues since in the context of other enquiries, particularly when we were looking at the future of the Common Agricultural Policy[7] and at the adequacy of the resources likely to be available within the financial perspective for 2000-2006[8]. And as this Report will show, these are still the live issues in today's discussions.

5. Because the time available for this enquiry was limited, we initially decided to concentrate on the progress of the five "first wave" Central and Eastern European countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia; we were of course mindful that Cyprus was hoping to accede on the same timescale)[9]. We therefore sought evidence from their Governments, as well as from the United Kingdom Government and from the European Commission. The day before we began the enquiry, the Commission published its proposals[10] for the way forward with the Central and Eastern European countries which had initially been placed in the "second wave" (Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia), as well as with Malta and Turkey. So we are naturally reporting on those proposals as well.

6. Part 2 of this Report provides a summary of our conclusions. Part 3 traces the path to date of the current enlargement. Part 4 summarises the developments in October 1999: the Commission's proposals as to how enlargement should be carried forward and the report commissioned by the new President of the European Commission, Mr Prodi, on the institutional implications of enlargement [11]. Part 5 presents the evidence which we received and sets out our opinions, and Part 6 makes some concluding comments.

7. The enquiry was carried out by Sub-Committee A. The membership of the Sub-Committee during the enquiry is listed at Appendix 1. Our witnesses are listed at Appendix 2; we are grateful to all of them, and particularly to those who gave oral evidence. Readers may find helpful the Glossary at Appendix 3 and the map and table of statistical data for the applicant countries at Appendix 4.

1   The financial consequences of enlargement, HL Paper 41, 10th Report Session 1997-98, p 1, reporting on 9984/97: Agenda 2000: the EC Budget 2000-2006; and Reform of the Structural and Cohesion Policy, published in July 1997. Back

2   Enlargement of the Community, HL Paper 5, 1st Report Session 1992-93, paragraph 144. The evidence to the enquiry was printed separately as HL Paper 55, 10th Report Session 1991-92. Back

3   Including Association or "Europe" Agreements. The proposed scope of these Agreements was outlined in document 8308/90: Communication from the Commission concerning Association Agreements with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe: a general outline. We reported on the proposals in 1991: European Agreements with Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, HL Paper 35, 8th Report Session 1990-91. Back

4   Enlargement of the Community, op cit, paragraph 167. Back

5   Ibid, paragraph 170. Back

6   Ibid, paragraph 186. Back

7   CAP Reform in Agenda 2000; the transition to competition: measures for rural development and the rural environment HL Paper 84, 18th Report Session 1997-98, and A Reformed CAP? The outcome of Agenda 2000, HL Paper 61, 8th Report Session 1998-99.  Back

8   Future financing of the EU: who pays and how? HL Paper 92, 15th report Session 1998-99, especially paragraph 45. Back

9   See map at Appendix 4. Back

10   12053/99: Composite Paper-Reports on progress towards accession by each of the candidate countries (subsequently referred to in this Report as "Composite Paper"); and progress reports on individual applicant States as listed at the beginning of this Report.  Back

11   Which has become known as the report of the "three wise men" (former Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, ex-German President Richard von Weizsäcker and former British Minister of State Lord Simon): The Institutional Implications of Enlargement, Report to the European Commission, 18 October 1999. Back

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