Challenges after the Treaty of Amsterdam
The pending problems
The Commission adopted in July 1997 the so-called Agenda
2000. This document tackled the big questions facing the European Union at
the beginning of the 21st century. It is organised in three parts:
The first was focused on the EU's internal
operation, especially the reform of the CAP
and the cohesion policy. It also gave some recommendations on the way to
deal with the challenge of enlargement and put forward a possible new
financial framework for the period 2000-2006.
The second strengthened the pre-accession
strategy, creating the partnership for accession and extending the
participation of applicant countries in Community programmes, for instance,
the educational ones.
The third was a study on the effects of
enlargement on EU policies.
These were the main problems that the EU had to
confront in the period up to the year 2000:
Reform of the Common
agricultural policy (CAP) that goes on absorbing an enormous percentage
of the whole Union budget. It is no surprise that this reform unleashed
protests among affected peasants.
Reform of Structural
and Cohesion Fund. Structural Fund was aimed at three territories: regions
with GDP per person inferior to 75% of Union average, regions with urgent
necessity of social and economic restructuring and another sort of regions
not included in the former ones but whose educational, training and employement systems should be modernised. First kind of regions took 2/3 of
the whole fund. The Cohesion Fund was focused on helping countries whose GDP per
capita is inferior to 90% of the Union average. A great problem pending for
the future was the reform of these funds with the future accession of less
developed countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The European agriculture:
an agriculture based on quality
Reform of the financial framework of the Union.
Some of the richest countries, like Germany, complain about the imbalance
between their contribution to the Community (around 28,2% of the total) and what
they receive via Structural Fund
Poorer countries refuse to a rebalance the
The termination of the Economic
and Monetary Union in the 2002.
After their launching on 1 January 1999, the Euro has plummeted against
The strength of the North American economy was the main reason of this evolution,
seen with mixed feelings from European markets and theEuropean
Greece, after complying with the convergence
criteria, joined Euroland. From January 2001, twelve countries will
adopt the Euro. Although Labour Tony Blair's government is in favour of
following its European partners, surveys show that a lot of Britons kept a eurosceptic
As well as giving solution to major problems as unemployement or
the lack of a genuine Community policy on taxation, the great challenge that the European Union
faces in the next future was, and is and will be over some years, its
enlargement towards the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe
The fifth enlargement of the European Union
1989 launched a radical transformation of our continent.
The collapse of the communist systems, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the
birth of new European States, the war in Yugoslavia..., all those events transformed
From the very beginning, accession
to the EEC (EU from 1992) was seen by these countries as the best means to
overcome their two main
The establishment of democratic systems, based on the respect of human
The transition of a communist planified system to a market economy.
This transition, with no previous example in history, had to be carried out in
the middle of a deep economic crisis.
Another major problem that these countries had to face was
finding security in a uncertain context (disintegration of the USSR, violent
break-up of Yugoslavia...).
The new democratic governments contemplated the NATO, the
Western military alliance led by the USA, as the best guarantee for their
In spite of the discontent of Russia, the USSR's heiress, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic
joined the Atlantic Alliance in 1999.
Serbian tank in Kosovo
Fleeing the Russian sphere of influence and joining an area of
economic development and security caused the urgent interest of former communist
countries to join Western institutions, especially, the European Union.
Future enlargement of the Union toward CCEE,
Cyprus, Malta and Turkey means for the EU an historical opportunity. The accession of these new countries will increase the
weight and the influence of the Union in the international scene.
European Union's enlargement towards Central
and Eastern Europe
Enlargement will be the major issue of EU policies in the next future. The
accession of countries with very different economic and political features,
confronts the European Union with unprecedented institutional and political challenges.
The first challenge was to reform the EU institutions to make them efficient
for a new enlarged Union. This reform brought about serious discrepancies among
member States. Topics like the composition of the Commission,
the weight of each country's vote, the powers of Parliament...,
all those subjects arose the debate among the governments. To give a solution to
those questions an Intergovernmental
Conference was called. It will end in an European
Council in Nice, France, at the end of 2000. The future of the EU will
largely depend on the success of the institutional reform to be approved in Nice.
The real problem of these countries is their backwardness and their economic
difficulties. It provokes that, in spite of the enormous efforts the CCEE have
made, their integration in the EU will be an extremely delicate task, since it
will hardly affect on the main funds and policies -Structural Fund
that today shape the Union policies.
After the collapse of the communist regimes, the EU launched in 1989 the Phare
to help the CCEE reconstruct their economies. The aid (EUR 6.7 billion during
the period 1995-1999) covered mainly sectors as infrastructure, agricultural
restructuring, education, development of the private sector of the economy and
In June 1993, the Copenhagen European
Council accepted the right of the CCEE to join the European Union when three
criteria were complied with:
political: stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law,
human rights and respect for minorities;
economic: an operative market economy;
incorporation of the Community
acquis: adherence to the diverse political, economic and
monetary objectives of the EU.
However, at the Madrid European
Council, held in 1995, problems started coming into view.
On the one hand, how will the enlargement affect the community
policies, such as : CAP,
cohesion funds, or financial framework of the EU? To what extent will the
enlargement damaged the countries, like Spain, that profited more of those funds?
The Agenda 2000, approved in 1997,
was, a proposal of reforms that tried to answer to these queries.
On the other hand, the richest countries in the Union started fearing
a genuine avalanche of immigrants when free movement of persons was implemented
after the CCEE accession.
This alarm has brought about the strengthening of far-right xenophobic parties,
like Haider's in Austria.
The Luxembourg European
Council, held in December 1995, gave a favourable reception to ten
countries applications to join EU. In 1995, negotiations had started with
Cyprus. In spite of that, the Council decided to proceed in two phases or waves.
In March 1998, negotiations began with the six first wave
countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia). The other CCEE (Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Romania and Slovakia), the second wave, were allowed to join the first
wave in February 2000, as it was considered that their reforms had made
quick enough progress.
Bearing in mind the economic hardships of these
countries, the Agenda
2000 established financial aid and the Council
signed, in 1998, different accession
partnerships to coordinate this aid provided by the European Community,
the applicants' complying with several priorities set for each sector in
adapting to EU legislation, determines the EU's financial assistance.
This adaptation to the EU standards and
legislation, especially as far as industrial and
environmental rules are concerned, required huge investment. A pre-accession
aid scheme for the period 2000-2006 for the CCEE was passed. The plan
involved two main elements:
the aid of Phare programme is focused on adapting the
applicant countries' administrative and legal systems and developing their
infrastructure (EUR 10.5 billion);
two new funds were set up to manage additional aid for
agriculture and infrastructure, especially environment and transport. The
fund devoted to infrastructure development is known as the structural
pre-accession instrument and will play a similar role for the
applicant countries as the
cohesion fund does for Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland.
To end with the enlargement question, we should comment the
cases of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey.
Cyprus, although having started negotiations sooner than the
rest of applicant countries, has a serious political problem in the division
of the island in two confronted sectors after the Turk military invasion that
followed the Greek military coup in 1974. It will be very difficult to
accomplish the accession process meanwhile this problem had not been solved.
Malta decided to paralysed its application for
two years, from 1996 to 1998. A special report by the Commission will decide
whether this country is included in the first or in the second wave of
As far as Turkey is
concerned, The Luxembourg European
Council affirmed that this country did not satisfy the political and economic
conditions to start accession negotiations and, thus, the EU strategy to
prepare Turkey for joining the Union should be continued. Turkey's government
and public opinion were dismayed by this declaration, and there were reactions
claiming that anti-islamic prejudices underlay this decision.