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Balkanalysis.com Briefing on the Europlus’ Enlargement Debate, June 2012

Brussels, European Parliament– On June 19, 2012, Balkanalysis.com contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag actively participated in the Europuls Association event Enlargement in crisis. Who is still up for the tango and captured some insights from the organisers and the essence of the debate in the following briefing.

During the event, held in the European Parliament, Europuls members challenged high-ranking guests and diplomats to express their views on the future of the enlargement process. Alina Girbea, Europuls’ project manager explained that “this year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Copenhagen criteria. However, after the Big Bang expansions of 2004-2007, when the EU almost doubled its number of members, the enlargement process is stagnating and the enthusiasm seems to be fading (to say the least) on both sides: the EU and the candidate countries. This is why the association Europuls has decided to organize this conference”.

Debating the future of Europe, Ivo Vajgl, a Member of the European Parliament active in the Foreign Affairs Committee, touched upon the enlargement fatigue which, to his mind, unfortunately coincided with the economic crisis. He emphasised that the EU should cover the entire continent, including Turkey, in order to fulfil its initial task of providing peace and prosperity to its citizens.

Alain Servantie, the representative of the European Commission, DG Enlargement raised the issue of the possible revision of the Copenhagen criteria and mentioned an EP report (rapporteur: Maria Eleni Koppa) on this topic, foreseen for adoption in AFET Committee in July and in plenary in September 2012. He mentioned that there is no need to revisit the Copenhagen criteria, but rather a need to better monitor the fulfilment of the criteria during the negotiations. Additional issues such as the fight against corruption and organised crime and social issues should also be treated through the negotiations process.

At the event, Romanian Ambassador to the EU HE Mihnea Motoc emphasized the need to offer a motivating timeframe for enlargement. He praised the European Parliament for being very active in this sense and a source of political inspiration. He concluded that for achieving better results in the accession negotiations, the justice and home affairs chapters should be the first ones to be addressed.

Davor Božinović, Croatian observer in the European Parliament, stressed the motivating function of the EU project for the Central and Eastern European countries and Western Balkans. The candidate and potential candidate countries are motivated to enhance their competitiveness in order to become EU members. The positive EU influence can be seen in the developments taking place in the Western Balkans (positive progress reports for Macedonia, the good results of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, and the end of the political deadlock in Bosnia and Herzegovina).

HE Selim Yenel, Turkish Ambassador to the EU, explained that even though Turkey is the most senior EU candidate, it seems that Europe is still not ready to receiving this populous country. For Turkey, EU accession is an important and motivating target and patience is unfortunately still needed. However, in his view, “the process is just as important as the end result.”

In this sense, the ambassador mentioned the “positive agenda“, launched by the European Commission on May 17, 2012 in Ankara, with the aim of providing new momentum for Turkey’s accession process. He concluded that Turkish citizens need real-life impetus that makes a difference for them, such as visas liberalization, because they fail to follow the difficult technicalities of the accession procedure.

Europuls is an independent organisation of young Romanians interested in European affairs and Romania’s position within the European Union. A network of collaborators specialised in Political Sciences and European Affairs and working especially in Brussels and Bucharest, but also in other EU countries, have gathered around the 6 founding members.  Their aim is to improve Romania’s European awareness, and encourage better communication about Romania at the European level, through an exchange of best practices and ideas.

The Europuls conferences put forward themes of European significance and are aimed at promoting public debate on various relevant themes: “Europe and Romanians: Attitudes, Perceptions and Expectations”, April 2010;  “Energy Security at the Black Sea”, June 2010; “Romania’s Priorities within the EU: Horizon 2020”, October 2010; “The Diaspora Votes”, October 2010;  “Elections in the Republic of Moldova: Overcoming the Political Crisis”, November 2010; “What European Strategy for Roma Inclusion?”, May 2011; “The Common Strategic Framework: Adding Value To Rural Development? Bridging the Gap between the CAP and the Cohesion Policy”, November 2011.

Alina Girbea, project manager, has studied Political Sciences at the University of Bucharest, Université Libre in Brussels and the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris (Sciences Po). She is now a parliamentary assistant at the European Parliament and has worked for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Notre Europe think tank. She is a founding member of the Spinelli Group.

Balkanalysis.com is an American research and analysis firm that provides dedicated coverage of the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean regions, in areas ranging from politics and security to economics and culture. It draws on the expertise of its broad network of field analysts and reporters representing a number of various countries and professional backgrounds.

Balkanalysis Briefings is a regular series in which correspondents of Balkanalysis.com, sometimes in affiliation with partner organizations, engage with representatives of companies, governmental institutions, non-governmental groups and other organizations professionally involved with the Balkan and Mediterranean regions in order to gain insight into issues, trends and other factors affecting present and future developments in the area. This process contributes to better analytical and prognostic research, allowing Balkanalysis.com to better serve its readers, while also providing Briefings partners an opportunity to make their products, services and goals better and more clearly known among those most actively involved with the region.

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