Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2006-2007
Delivered in Plenary - 13th December 2006
The smooth successive waves of EU enlargement are a magnificent achievement of the EU. The fifth wave, which enlarged the Union to 25 Member States two years ago, has actually been a great success, in spite of warnings that the Union would be paralysed without a constitution and that countries such as my own would suffer unsustainable immigration flows, including from the Roma population.
Regrettably, the Brok report seeks again to link further enlargement to the absolute need for an EU Constitution, whereas British Conservatives, whom I represent, would argue that this is not the case and that what we really need are Treaty adjustments, via an amended Nice Treaty, to reflect the new voting strength in the Council, the number of MEPs and Commissioners, after the expected relatively painless accession of Croatia in the next couple of years.
I am of the personal opinion that we now also need to look seriously at the top-heavy Commission. However, I believe we should not rotate Commissioners absolutely equally amongst all Member States, but some mathematical formula must be found to preserve, at least in a semi-permanent presence, the Commissioners of the big Member States – but I know this is controversial.
The new Member States have, broadly speaking, been more Atlanticist: they believe in freer markets and competitive rates of low taxation, which is an approach I welcome. I believe that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on 1 January 2007 will also prove to be a great success.
As rapporteur, I believe that the European Neighbourhood Policy must be split into a southern EuroMed dimension through the Barcelona Process and a new eastern concept of an enhanced free-trade and visa-facilitated EU-Black Sea community to further strengthen our ties with European countries such as Ukraine, Moldova and the three Caucus republics. I call on the Member States to inform Moldova and Ukraine that they are in the longer term entitled, in my view, in the same way as all the countries in the Western Balkans are entitled, to become potential candidates for EU membership.