May 1, 2008
Ten member states, including most of Central Europe has been in the European Union for four years. Some people start to make assessments.
Café Bábel’s Krisztina Fogas claims in Happy fourth birthday to Central and Eastern Europe that “it has been four years since the European Union opened its door wide open and welcomed fifteen member states. It’s not been a 100% success story for every member”. The Constitutional Lore blog quotes EU-president Janez Jansha that Europe went through a historic transformation in the past 20 years and ” the last twenty years have transformed the European continent, a process which culminated in the accession of new member states in 2004 and 2007. It was imperative that the European Union adapt to these changes in a timely and appropriate fashion, and expansion of the last four years met these goals”. Kozmopolit, quoting the Economist magazine, stresses the importance of the process leading to membership.
I think that it is the participation in EU became inevitable for this region after 1989. The Central European countries have similar politics, international goals, and their economies are as highly integrated into the single market as any other member states. Inevitability is not success. Hungary (and Bulgaria from the 2007 accession group) are doing worse within the EU than before. On the other hand, it seems that Poland (and maybe Romania from the 2007 accession countries) are making out particularly lot about the membership, probably thanks to their very mobile populations, despite the two countries interesting domestic politics. EU membership is not a cure for domestic problems. I think that Mr. Jansha is right: the fact that Central European countries have chosen a transition from planned economy and partly foreign-imposed one party rule to capitalism and democracy was a historical step. Given the historical, cultural and economic ties between parts of Europe EU became an inevitable model. Transposing the EU economic and political model into domestic law has been technically a part of the enlargement process, but I think in a more substantive way it was actually the blueprint of a social and economic model change in the region. The enlargement talks helped domestic politicians who more or less shared the EU-goals, the technical details of transposing the acqui and the timeframe set by the Euroepan institutions helped in detail and in political management.
I share Kozmpolit’s view that the enlargement process is as important as reaching the eventual membership. I think Hungary did not make out much of the accession because it started economic transition earlier and at a quicker pace than most of the peer-group and most economic benefits were reached during the associated membership phase (when trade and investment limits were already small). In the case of Bulgaria I think the opposite is true: some part of the transition is taking place within the EU.
A day before the 4th anniversary of the first post-Cold War accession round Serbia has signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. I think the enlargement process for Central Europe has been going through the rough road of social and economic transition with a guide and a clear target. I think this is something that Serbian citizens should consider among the pros and cons, and also the those who for different other reasons.
Update: Kozmopolit on Serbia’s SAA offer is a good following of this argument.Author : Dániel Antal