Book Presentation at Center Austria
European Union Enlargement. Background, Developments, Facts
European Union’s Enlargement: Opportunity Or Risk?
Two highly experienced professionals in the field of diplomacy and international politics, Dr. Martin Sajdik, Ambassador of Austria to China, Mongolia and North Korea, and Dr. Michael Schwarzinger, Head of Unit for the European Council and the General Affairs Council at the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in Vienna, presented their book European Union Enlargement. Background, Developments, Facts at UNO’s Earl K. Long Library.
The presentation included a very detailed and lucid presentation about the opportunities and risks of the enlargement of the European Union.
After a short review of the history of the European Community, starting in 1957, the experts focused on different rounds of EC/EU enlargements between 1973 and 2007. They stressed both the importance of these enlargements for the promotion of democracy and peace in Europe and the economic and political growth of the European Union and the new member states.
Several programs such as “PHARE” (Poland and Hungary: Assistance for the Restructuring their Economies) or “EBRD” (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) were initiated by the EC/EU to prepare new states for a membership. Right after the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe 1989-1991, the European Community made it clear that the Eastern European reform countries would have a European future. The Copenhagen criteria of 1993 and the European Council of Luxembourg in 1997 framed the terms and conditions for a future membership; a system of aid and control was established to help the candidates meet these criteria.
Sajdik and Schwarzinger explained the financial burdens and risks as well as the budgetary challenges and financial consequences of the “Big Bang” EU enlargement of 2004, when ten new member states joined the EU. Especially the free movement of workers constituted a big challenge to countries like Germany and Austria. Austria for example features common borders with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, which challenged it’s labor markets.
To prevent workers from the new member states to flood the Austrian labor market, transition periods were needed.
The two Austrian experts made it clear that a further enlargement of the European Union (Turkey or the Western Balkans) could be financed would not overburden the European Union. More challenging than financial considerations would be other questions, vis-a-vis Turkey.
Turkey applied as early as 1959 to become a member state, but has been turned down since. In 2005 negotiations for Turkey’s EU-accession finally started but so far only one chapter has been closed (under the Austrian Presidency in 2006). Much discussed issues with regard to Turkey remain such as the Cyprus conflict as and the larger question whether Turkey can be considered a European state (only 8 percent of the area is part of the European continent).
The presentation ended with the general question where the final borders for a future European Union might be one day. Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Moldavia, are all candidates; a European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) has been adopted for other countries from Morocco to Belarus.
Martin Sajdik/Michael Schwarzinger, European Union Enlargement: Background, Development, Facts, in: Studies in Austrian and Central European History and Culture (Vol.3), ed. Günter Bischof. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers 2007.