A joint conference with the Bertelsmann Foundation
A Note by the Director (Ditchley 2002/08)
24-26 May 2002
Over the weekend of 24-26 May we looked at the next round of Enlargement of the EU, decisions on which could come by the end of this year. We were fortunate in having representatives from a number of candidate countries which helped to prevent our discussions becoming too introspective. In addition to analysing the complex set of issues involved in an enlargement of up to ten new members, we also sought to think through the implications for existing policies.
We looked at what sort of EU we wished to see, at the policies which might help us to achieve our aim, at the institutions which might underpin this and finally at which countries might join at the next phase of enlargement and the effects on present and future budgetary arrangements.
In trying to define what sort of EU we wanted we were told that the present version was suffering from a crisis of democratic legitimacy. There had been a signal failure to define the political project in a way that was comprehensible to the citizens of the EU. In further discussion a surprising degree of agreement seemed to emerge that there was no "finalité" for the EU. We had embarked on a never ending journey. We asked ourselves whether the EU should be defined by its institutions or by its policies. Would the EU appeal more if it agreed on, and then implemented, policies which were relevant to the daily lives of its citizens? It was suggested that tangible symbols like the Euro, the common passport, EU patrols on the Polish external frontier, education in each others countries, even a common social security card, made the deepest impression. Others disagreed, the EU was an elite project which still lacked popular roots. It was a hybrid organisation and would inspire hybrid loyalties commented another. Some claimed that policy makers were suffering from a lack of imagination in considering the future of the EU. The tendency was to think about it in national terms and to project onto it national solutions. To the candidate countries it appeared that nobody was thinking much about their accession to the EU and the effect they would have on the organisation, perhaps because although they would increase the overall population of the EU by 20%, they would add only 4% to its GNP. To which was added the comment that the process of enlargement was attracting very little attention in the USA at a time when the military gap between the EU and the USA was growing wider. One participant maintained that the EU would be best served if it continued to develop through greater integration on economic issues. Another thought that this would not be enough. Many of the new member states would bring with them legacies of nationalism and distrust of each other. For these countries the EU would have to bring about the same degree of reconciliation that had been achieved among the existing member states.
A strong defence was, however, made of the achievements of the EU. The problem of modern democracies was that they tended to take their successes for granted. We were currently going through the most prosperous period ever in Europe's history and enjoying the longest period of peace. The EU accounted for about 30% of the world's GNP, about the same as the USA, with Japan and the rest of the world making up the other 40%. The economic weight of the EU had enabled it to achieve results in the Doha World Trade negotiations which no single state in the EU, including Germany, could have achieved on its own. The candidate countries wanted to enjoy these benefits while the existing member states were concerned to preserve what they already had. According to this analysis the EU needed to make progress in three areas of policy. It needed more effective voting mechanisms in its Common Foreign and Security Policy to allow it to play a role on the world stage commensurate with its size. In the area of Justice and Home Affairs more needed to be achieved. Globalisation was producing movements of peoples on a scale not seen since the break up of the Roman Empire. Europe would be deeply affected and needed to develop common policies to deal with this. Finally, although the common currency was now in circulation, there needed to be more co-ordination in member states' economic and tax policies to the point that certain taxes might be given to Europe. Others thought that the litmus test of whether the EU was capable of formulating sensible policies to deal with obvious and pressing problems was whether the Common Agricultural Policy would finally be reformed. Policies should turn away from production support to overall rural development. We thought this might be possible, even in France, where the direct farming population was now down to 5½%. There was some sympathy for the hope that modernisation of the CAP would have taken place before the new candidates joined since, after they entered, it would be harder to make the necessary changes.
We also considered the much debated question of "variable geometry". How much latitude should be allowed to existing or potential new Member States in applying policies in the EU? Some thought that variable geometry was a fact of life and ought to be anchored in the Constitution. It had been demonstrated initially by the Schengen Agreement and subsequently by the current Euro arrangements which not all of the candidate countries would be able to join on acceding to the EU, even though they would have signed up to the principle of EMU in their entry negotiations. It was suggested that safeguards against the abuse of variable geometry could be written into the acquis such as prior consultation before any group of countries decided to move to closer integration, Commission agreement and appeal mechanisms for those who claimed that their interests were being adversely affected etc.
In looking at the institutional arrangements for the future EU, we considered first the point of view of individual citizens whose interests, we were inclined to think, had not been a major factor in previous negotiations. Indeed, one participant commented that certain circles in the EU had, in the past, been obsessed with institution building and with Inter Governmental Conferences almost as an alibi for not dealing with the EU's policies or people. There seemed a good measure of agreement that it would be sensible to try to define the EU's aims and objectives before thinking about the institutions needed to serve them. We acknowledged, however, that trying to fuse a wide variety of political cultures was a difficult undertaking. This led us to reflect on the advantages of having a relatively short constitution one of whose aims should be to preserve diversity. And, given that the next round of enlargement would not be the last, any constitution should also be as flexible as possible. At present the EU was continuously rewriting its constitution which served to create uncertainty in the minds not only of its citizens but also among the elites who were themselves ignorant of some of the details. One of our constitutional experts commented that, in a unique organisation like the EU which was constructing a complex federalism, this was difficult to avoid. Another thought that trying to write a constitution for an entity whose borders were not yet finally established would cause difficulties later for new entrants whose people would not have been consulted.
In looking at existing EU and other European institutions we spent some time on how they could be connected to individual citizens and thus command their support. Election by the European Parliament of the President of the Commission, and possibly also of the Commissioners themselves, was one suggestion. This might induce more people to vote for members of the European Parliament since they would be seen to be dealing with an important practical issue. Others thought that the Commission was the defining institution in the EU. Its task was to represent the general, not the particular, interest. Against the charge that if it was not elected the Commission would neither be representative nor accountable, it could be argued that national Parliaments should hold their national ministers accountable for decisions taken at Brussels and that the European Parliament should be more assertive in exercising the powers it already had in holding the Commission to account. It would also be difficult for the President of the Commission to remain objective and independent at meetings of the European Council if he or she had campaigned for election on a party political ticket. The Commission should concentrate on its prime roles as guardian of the Treaties through the effective monitoring of their application and as the initiator of policy proposals. In discussion there was little appetite for breaking with the practice of each Member State having a Commissioner even though, after the next enlargement, the numbers would be very large. Group rotation of membership of the Commission was suggested as a possible solution.
In looking at the range of decision making bodies in the EU there was general agreement that decisions should be taken as close as possible to the level of those who would be affected by them. While it might make sense to take decisions on trade and the common currency at the highest level, regulation of citizens at a high level usually led to trouble. Subsidiarity should be given sharper teeth. At the other end of the spectrum we thought about the European Parliament (EP) whose role should be more clearly defined. The EP's role was not, and ought not to be, the same as that of a national Parliament insisted one participant. It was suggested that some members of the European Parliament should also be national MPs which would help to link the two, in particular over decisions on Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign policy issues. There might also be a Senate made up of leading politicians. A word of caution was expressed over the future composition of the European Central Bank. It could scarcely function efficiently if the numbers on its Board were increased to thirty of more. But as the guardian of the most visible element of European integration, the Euro, its effectiveness was of great importance. We highlighted the difficulty, after the next enlargement, of finding a stable balance in the EU where there would be three times as many small states as large ones. Tendencies towards a directorate of the bigger states would be deeply resented.
Inevitably the problem of languages in the EU came up. The next round of enlargement would bring this into sharp focus. Efficiency and cost pointed towards limiting the number of languages to about three. We acknowledged, however, that it would be a denial of democracy, if, in the only body directly linking the people to the EU process, members of the European Parliament were not allowed to express themselves in their own language. Our conclusion was that a distinction might be drawn between official and working languages. There should be fewer of the latter than the former. Time would tell which languages would be used for the conduct of working business. Ten or so years ago, French had been the preferred working language. This had now changed to English.
In considering the accession of new member states we were asked to recognise that we were dealing with two different worlds. There were the existing member states and the applicants. The latter were facing three separate but important challenges: the post-communist transition; the process of integration and modernisation; and the test of globalisation. These challenges might be known to the elites but it was questionable if societies generally in the applicant countries were ready for the social adjustments that would be necessary. It was important for the future working of the EU that all the applicant countries were well treated on their way to becoming full members of the EU. In some ways their national identity and interests were more closely tied to the EU than was the case for existing member states. Currently the candidates were completely absorbed by the process of entry negotiations. They had no spare capacity to consider longer term questions. But, commented a representative of the applicants, they did not like the German Foreign Minister's speech about the EU's future. Seven out of ten of the applicants had not rid themselves of a bureaucracy in Moscow in order to replace it by a new bureaucracy in Brussels. Finally nearly all the new member states would bring with them minority problems like the Roma.
Against this background we thought that ten new member states were likely to join by 2004. Thereafter there were possibly a further ten states which might also join in the following decade or so. We did not think that failure to reach a settlement on Cyprus would delay the timetable significantly. But a solution to the Irish failure to ratify the Nice Treaty would need to be found. Slovakia could present problems if its application to join NATO was not agreed at the NATO summit in Prague in November. However, it would be difficult to exclude from the EU a democratically elected Government, even if it included HZDS participation, if it signed up to EU values and the acquis. Malta was, some of us thought, the only candidate with a realistic possibility of losing a referendum. We also noted that a major Czech political party was opposed to membership. Public opinion in the present member States was still positive on enlargement with only France showing a negative number. Public opinion in the candidate states would be heavily influenced by the outcome of their accession negotiations where the single most important issue would be that a new Member State should be financially better off in 2004 than in 2003 as a result of budget compensation.
The accession of ten new member states would bring the EU a range of new neighbours, and a requirement for a more clearly defined policy towards them. Turkey appeared to some of us to present the most difficult problems. The EU's relations with Turkey had in the past been characterised by a series of uneasy compromises. It was a large poor country whose population would overtake that of Germany by 2025. 11 September had, however, raised the stakes and we anticipated pressure from the USA to be generous to Turkey on strategic grounds. This pressure might well increase if the USA decided to attack Iraq and needed a base for their operations in Turkey. Although we recognised the advantages to the EU's relations with Muslim countries if Turkey were to be admitted, there was a view that the better course might be to postpone a decision on Turkey rather than forcing the issue now. We looked at the complicated nature of the EU's relations with a range of countries in the Balkans and also Bulgaria and Romania. For all new neighbours regardless of the eventual timing of their accession we thought that tough conditionality should inform our policies together with an increase in financial support and a further look at the terms of their association agreements. We did not think that Russia would necessarily want, or expect, to join the EU but it would wish to be assured of continued access to the EU market. Overall the internal EU debate on its new neighbours would, we thought, be transformed by the accession of the new Member states who would strive to maintain their links with their former partners.
We foresaw some difficult negotiations over the budget settlement after 2006. At various stages in our discussions we had advocated increasing financial transfers to a range of countries without identifying where these increased funds would come from. In addition, it seemed that the mood in Germany towards large contributions to the EU budget had changed. We thought that a mechanism for linking net contributions to relative prosperity would be required. Overall we envisaged a continuation of a seven year settlement with a ceiling on resources of 1.27% of GNP. But some concern was expressed that no detailed estimate of the additional costs arising from enlargement had been made. While initially these might not be significant, given the size of the new members' economies, the costs were likely to rise as their economies grew. We foresaw considerable scope for diverting funds away from a reformed CAP together with the need to focus regional funds on the poorest countries. As far as the applicant countries were concerned it would be crucial for the EU to explain that the arrangements until 2006 were transitional and that in future new member states could expect help of a similar order to that given to Spain, Greece etc. It should also be made clear that there was no substitute to being at the negotiating table when such bargains were struck.
In a final look back at the ground we had covered, the view was expressed that the debate on enlargement had moved on a good deal in the last year. In thinking about the future we should concentrate more on the EU's policies than on its institutions. The latter would be addressed, no doubt in the discussions of the present Convention which could either be seen as a last chance to reform the existing model or the first step in a new process. But policies would have important consequences for the institutions. With the EU's new boundaries and new neighbours, Justice and Home Affairs would increase in importance. It might be possible to envisage a collapse of the pillars. But asked another, could the EU handle all these multifunctional roles? Economic disparities between the new members and the old would be reflected in the arguments about a future budget where to some extent the politics pointed in a different direction to the policies that ought to be adopted. We also anticipated changes that might follow enlargement decisions in both NATO and the EU where the new members would bring with them more atlanticist views which, together with a much closer overlap between the memberships of the two organisations, could permit joint operations. A last observation brought us back to one of the underlying themes of the conference as were urged, notwithstanding the importance of policies in shaping the future of the EU, to take constitutional identity in the EU more seriously.
I am grateful to our partners, the Bertelsmann Foundation, for helping us with our second conference on this important theme and for making it possible for a number of our participants from the applicant countries to join us. I am also grateful to our Chairman who not only guided our discussions with skill but also contributed his own extensive knowledge of both national political attitudes to the EU as well as his experience of the workings of the Commission at the highest level. In a few years time, when the next round of enlargement has taken place, it will be interesting to see how many of our predictions and policy proposals are borne out by events.
This Note reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.
Chairman : Lord Tugendhat
Life Peer (Conservative) (1993); Chairman - Europe, Lehman Brothers (2002-); Chancellor, University of Bath (1998-); Member of Parliament (Conservative), City of London and Westminster South (1970-76); Commission of the European Communities: Member (1977-81); a Vice-President (1981-85); Chairman, Royal Institute of International Affairs (1986-95); a Governor and Member of the Council of Management, The Ditchley Foundation CANADA
Professor Peter Leslie
Queen's University, Kingston Ontario; Professor of Political Studies CZECH REPUBLIC
Professor Otto Pick CMG
Ambassador at Large and Co-Chairman, Czech-German Coordination Council; Emeritus Professor of International Relations, University of Surrey; Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic (1998-2000) EBRD/CAN
Ms Suzanne Gaboury
Principal Banker, Eastern Europe, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Mr Graham J L Avery
Chief Adviser, Directorate General (Enlargement), European Commission, Brussels EC/PORTUGAL
Mr Telmo Baltazar
Adviser to the Director-General, Justice and Home Affairs, European Commission GERMANY
Dr Martis Brusis
Senior Fellow, Bertelsmann Group for Policy Research, Centre for Applied Policy Research, Munich
Mr Thomas Fischer
Project Director, Politics Division, The Bertelsmann Foundation, Gütersloh
Dr Reinhard Schweppe
Director of the European Department, Auswärtiges Amt
Professor Dr Roland Sturm
Professor, Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen HUNGARY
Professor Dr Péter Balázs
Former Ambassador to Bonn ISS-EU
Dr Antonio Missiroli
Research Fellow, EU Institute for Security Studies, Paris POLAND
Professor Lena Kolarska-Bobinska
Director, Institute of Public Affairs, Warsaw
Dr Bogdan Góralczyk
Head of the Political Cabinet of the Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr Matthew Olex-Szczytowski
Head of Central Europe, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein UNITED KINGDOM
Professor Iain Begg
Professor of International Economics, South Bank University; joint editor, Journal of Common Market Studies; author
Professor Vernon Bogdanor CBE FBA
Professor of Government, Oxford University, and Fellow, Brasenose College
Mr Matthew Browne
Head of Research, Policy Network; former senior adviser to Jacques Delors
Mr Kim Darroch
Director for EU Affairs, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mr Hugh Dykes
Member of Parliament (Harrow East (1970-97); Vice-President, British-German Association
Mr Alex Ellis
Deputy Head, European Union Department (External), Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Ms Heather Grabbe
Research Director, Centre for European Reform (2000-); Fellow, Wolfson College, Oxford (1999-)
Professor Charlie Jeffery
Deputy Director, Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham
Mr Michael Moore MP
Member of Parliament (Liberal Democrat), Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale; Spokesman for Foreign Affairs
HE The Hon Michael Pakenham CMG
Ambassador, Warsaw (2000-); formerly: Chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee, Cabinet Office (1997-2000)
Professor Jim Rollo CMG
University of Sussex: Director, One Europe or Several? (Research Programme of the ESRC); Co-Director, Sussex European Institute; Director, Centre on European Political Economy
Dr Larry A Siedentop
Fellow, Keble College and Faculty Lecturer in Political Thought, University of Oxford
Ms Mariana Tsatsas
Research Fellow, European Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Professor Mark Kramer
Harvard University, Senior Fellow, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; Director, Harvard Project on Cold War Studies
Dr John E Rielly
Public Policy Fellow, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholas (2002-); Visiting Fellow, Sidley Austin Brown and Wood (2001-); President, The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (1974 2001)