Wanna be in our gang?
The EC is keen to enlarge its membership but there are legal and practical obstacles, writes Alistair Lindsay
The trickle of states that have joined the EU since its formation will soon become a torrent. Thirteen states have applied to join: Cyprus, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Malta and Turkey. The most advanced among them are due to conclude negotiations by the end of next year and should be able to take part in the European elections in Spring 2004. All previous enlargements of the EU – most recently Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995 – involved small numbers of relatively prosperous nations. The current round of negotiations is of a different magnitude. Preparations began on the demise of the communist regimes in the east more than a decade ago, and reforms have already been implemented by the EU and the applicant states. Substantial hurdles remain. The EU has to manage increasing voter opposition to enlargement and broker compromises on funding, the allocation of grants to socially deprived areas and the rights of workers from the new joiners to take up jobs in the current member states. For their part, the applicant states still have some way to go in reforming their political, economic, legal and administrative structures to satisfy the EU’s qualification criteria.
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