Guide The Legitimacy of the European Union After Enlargement

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The EU is also entitled to conclude international agreements by itself if they are necessary to enact the exclusive competences. The EU has supporting or special extraordinary competence in the following policy areas among others , where it assists Member States:.

It is, in turn, divided into two elements, which may easily be confused:. Sometimes, the President of the European Parliament is invited to join as well. The European Council is chaired by a permanent President , who is elected for terms of 2. As a rule, the European Council meets 4 times a year to discuss recent developments and to set the strategic course of the European Union. However, its President calls for additional meetings whenever the situation demands it.

Over the last years, there were many such extraordinary sessions, for instance related to the financial crisis in Greece or on the occasion of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom. The double majority or qualified majority procedure is in place for most policy areas. Unanimity , i. These areas are taxation, social security and social protection, the accession of new countries to the EU, foreign policy, common defence policy, and operational police cooperation between EU countries. This means that depending on the given topic, different Member States representatives come together each time — the various Council configurations.

Two configurations stand out: The General Affairs Council , which has an overall coordinating role and deals with institutional and administrative matters, and the Foreign Affairs Council. The latter has several configurations in itself, depending on whether foreign policy in general, security and defence, development cooperation, or foreign trade are discussed.

This means that every half year, another Member State takes over the role to coordinate policy making in the Council of the European Union. In concert with the European Parliament, it is the main decision-making body of the EU. Like in the European Council, some topics require unanimity. Closely affiliated with the Council of the European Union is the Eurogroup , an informal meeting of the finance ministers of the countries where the Euro is the official currency. The Eurogroup coordinates the fiscal policy and economic policy of the Eurozone.

It is chaired by a permanent President , currently by Jeroen Dijsselbloem. In order to retain transparency for non-Euro EU Member States, Eurogroup decisions are voted upon in the monthly meeting of the Financial and Economic Affairs Council, but with voting rights for the Euro countries only. The latter is an international organisation that has no direct relation with the EU and gathers many more member countries, including Russia.

Its members are chosen in EU-wide general elections every five years. This is meant to balance power relations in the Parliament. The current European Parliament was elected in and has members. It elects a President for a 2,5-year term; the current office holder is Martin Schulz. Even though election campaigns for the European Parliament mostly play out on Member State level, MEPs form trans-national political groups.

A group must represent at least one quarter of the Member States and have at minimum 25 members. There are currently 8 such groups:. The European Parliament passes EU laws and adopts the EU budget together with the Council of the European Union, has a say in international agreements and enlargement of the EU, and holds the European Commission as well as all other EU institutions accountable on behalf of the citizens.

The Legitimacy of the European Union after Enlargement – Edited by J. Thomassen

The Parliament elects the President of the European Commission and approves his or her selection of Commissioners. To this end, the Parliament conducts hearings, first with the candidate for President of the Commission, and later with all Commissioner candidates. However, MEPs can only approve or disapprove the entire college of Commissioners at once.

Legislative work and the related negotiations with other EU Institutions are conducted by thematic Committees , such as for international trade, regional development, budget control, and so on. Most of this goes on in Brussels, whereas plenary meetings are held on a monthly basis in Strasbourg, which is the second seat of the European Parliament.

The Parliament takes decisions by absolute majority, i. The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union. It is composed of the President of the European Commission and a college of 27 Commissioners.

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Every Member State delegates one Commissioner. The college of Commissioners takes all decisions collectively, no matter what subject area is concerned. Yet according to the latest Eurobarometer survey, an astonishing 79 percent of EU citizens think that having too close ties between businesses and government is the main reason behind corruption—which means that the problem is not only about the East.

Because the gap between the perception and the practice of corruption is far too wide, anticorruption campaigns are starting to serve political and partisan interests, when the role and competence of the state are the issues that matter most.

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Instead, the focus should be on EU reforms that could return hope to citizens in areas like economic governance and the political credibility of the European institutions. Once the EU finds its way back on the path of internal cohesion, enlargement will become a less divisive issue. The situation in Central and Eastern Europe has a damaging effect on enlargement, except for Romania due to its judiciary and people. Over , people rallied in January to defend the rule of law, democracy, and express their commitment to the European values—and the protests continue.

Unfortunately, many politicians from all the CEE states have one thing in common: the lack of political will to fight corruption, because they benefit from it. Many nationalist and populist politicians from Eastern Europe say they encourage enlargement. Nevertheless, their actions undermine the process by setting a negative example that reduces the trust of citizens from prospective members in the EU and in its power to offer them a safer, fairer, and more prosperous living environment.


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Furthermore, the Kremlin is making use of every single weakness of the EU. The situation in the region creates the perfect climate for Russian propaganda to destabilize the union. Enlargement is killing enlargement. Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic are not EU poster boys in terms of their illiberal populism and media manipulation.

But far more dangerous to future enlargement is the failure to eradicate corruption and state capture, notably in Romania and Bulgaria, and importing border disputes into the EU. Greece and Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina—all refuse to settle borders or even recognize each other.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU despite unfinished business in justice reform; Croatia was treated less leniently, as Serbia is now. They were also willing and able to transfer concrete knowledge of the accession process. It also gives backing to political forces who have every interest to preserve their current privileges and impunity, and who have been stalling the enlargement process all along.

But for all that, there is still Brexit-driven EU reform. Enlargement was always about solidarity with future members of the union. However, so they say, the new members showed no solidarity when it was unity was needed to accept refugees coming to the EU. Conversely, I have never heard a pundit from Brussels admit that between and the six potential EU member economies in southeast Europe the SEE6 have made the EU richer by 97 billion euro through their trade deficits, mostly with Germany and Italy about 75 percent of the SEE6 trade is with the EU. They also pay substantial interest rates for capital borrowed in the EU.


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Moreover, about four-fifths of their banking system is in the hands of financial institutions from the EU. The truth is that the Western Balkans are socioeconomically and politically already part of the EU, but with many disadvantages and no voting rights. At the end of the day, it is ideological: some people resent the fact that the EU has not stayed a Carolingian league.


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Others, who feel responsibility for the future of Europe, should push for the accelerated entry of the SEE6. Central Europe clearly disappoints any expectations that NATO and EU enlargement would provide a framework to develop and sustain open societies. But with similar trends apparent in older EU member states, it seems myopic to single out the newer ones.

Regional standards of membership and enlargement in the EU and ASEAN | SpringerLink

Given that the Central European states have had only had fourteen years of experience in the EU and less than three decades of living in open societies—with almost no democratic experience before —it is important to take the long view. One full generation of Central Europeans have grown up in an open Europe and with democracies, flawed though they might be; they will be followed by more. The Western liberal order is in crisis—not just Central Europe.

It is vital that all Europeans see these issues as common threats. Ever since Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in , there has been a constant stream of complaints that they should not have been accepted due to their lack of fulfillment of key democratic and rule-of-law conditions. Now that Hungary and Poland, the former model countries of post-communist transition, have regressed their democratic standards and values, there are a growing number of voices among EU member states who are asking for either a temporary pause or an end to enlargement.

But, enter geopolitics. So geopolitical reasoning weighs heavily in favor of enlargement, in spite of the bad image some have of it. Yes and no. The cases of Romania and Bulgaria only reaffirm one of the few lessons partly learned by the EU from earlier rounds of enlargement: to substantially strengthen reform conditionality on democracy and the rule of law and to make no compromises when letting in new members. This has long-since ceased being a problem confined to illiberal member states, or to the enlargement process alone, as the refugee crisis has demonstrated.

Follow the conversation— Sign up to receive email updates when comments are posted to this article. In the past, geopolitics has played a huge role in poorly regulating global finance. Enormous corruption, as referred to in comments above, is a result. Indeed the latest report by Transparency International criticises member countries in the EU. The EU has proved unwilling to enforce fiduciary duty. Because of this 'approved' culture, the spreading of the disease through enlargement seems irresponsible.

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O f course it is. This is a non-issue. The credibility of their commitment will best be demonstrated if they truly dedicate themselves to resolving bilateral issues because these questions are the basis for the remains of nationalism, populism and a kind of political alibi for lack of commitment to democratic changes.

It is necessary to change an antagonistic discourse and narrative, and accept the language of mutual respect and cooperation, especially in those situations when a common position on certain issues is not shared. This requires maturity, a great deal of personal political courage, resistance to challenges of populism and local topics, a genuine leadership, a clear vision and a historical responsibility to citizens, like the one exhibited by leaders of France and Germany just a few years after the end of WWII.

According to initial announcements, this Strategy should provide a credible perspective of future membership for Serbia and Montenegro as the current leading candidates in the accession negotiations with the EU. It is realistic to expect that the Strategy will encompass other Western Balkan countries and that the prospect of membership will be offered to countries which currently lag behind the two mentioned counties for different reasons.

The Western Balkan countries should be offered a credible roadmap towards future EU membership. Therefore, it is necessary to offer something new. A step in the right direction would be discussing the issues of economic development and instruments for faster catching up to the average level of economic development of EU Member States.

The question of economic development represents an acute problem for Western Balkans. Numerous studies and projections of economic growth suggest that it will take many years for the Western Balkan countries to achieve economic convergence, or at least reach the average level of economic development of the EU. The current level of economic development, with all its negative effects on the level of employment, and especially on the drain of skilled labour, the economic stagnation, i.

For aforementioned reasons, it is necessary that the new Strategy is clearly defined on the need to strengthen financial support for economic development and structural reforms in the candidate countries. Thus far, structural development support has been reserved exclusively for the EU members. A credible integration strategy should try to provide a creative solution and provide similar treatment in the case of candidates with defining the necessary conditions for the use of this type of support.

Providing additional resources would facilitate structural reforms, strengthen the absorption capacity and allow for an easier period after accession and their inclusion in EU politics. Previous experience of new members indicates their structural unpreparedness for drastic increase in the resources of structural funds and cohesion fund which are at their disposal upon EU accession. Consideration of a different methodology of allocation of financial aid in the forthcoming Strategy, which would ensure gradual and continuous growth of designated financial resources for the candidate countries, would represent a new quality in relation to the current practice.

If it wants to confirm the effect of certainty of future membership of the Western Balkan countries in the EU and the credibility of the new approach, the European Commission must think about ways to include these countries in various sectoral policies and programs of the Union. It is understood that the Western Balkan countries would not have the opportunity to participate in the adoption of decisions given that they are not members.

However, it is possible to predict their role in consultations about the creation and development of common policies which would be useful and mutually beneficial. In this way, a higher level of integration of these countries would be ensured in areas such as the common agricultural policy, environmental policy, energy and transport policies, as well as questions concerning security and the rule of law, or in programs that are intended for scientific research, transportation corridors or education of citizens of the Union.

Simultaneously, public perception about the belonging of these countries in the common European family would be significantly enhanced by such inclusion. In this regard, the inclusion of political representatives of the countries from the region in different EU bodies, where possible, would help in their socialization and better understanding of the consensual spirit and common EU policies.

Of special importance would be the inclusion of representatives of the countries from the region in the debate about the future of the EU, given that it is a common future of its current and future members. Participation in the discussion about the future of the EU would contribute to creating a sense of belonging to a community and it would strengthen dialogue with the candidates and potential candidates. This dialogue is not exclusively the need of Western Balkan countries.

Within the framework of the dialogue, an opportunity for the citizens of the EU Member States would open so that they get better acquainted with the achievements, but also the challenges that determine the pace of further EU enlargement. The importance of timely and objective informing of EU citizens about the process of its redefining is unquestionable from the standpoint of democratic legitimacy of the future Union.

It is sufficient to recall the failure of the referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty in Simultaneously, it is important to emphasize the necessity to include not only government representatives, but also civil society representatives in the broadest sense including representatives of NGOs, think tanks, academia, professional associations, the media….

The Strategy would need to support its credibility with some, even tentative, timetable for integration of candidates who meet the necessary criteria. However, defining the timeframe and membership perspective of leading candidates up to is not enough. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the time frames of this process within whose framework clearly defined and measurable criteria will assess the achievements of candidates and accordingly define the next stages of the process.

This is important because of the transparency of the process and informing the public about the current state of the accession negotiations of each individual candidate. Simultaneously, this is significant because of commitment of the European Commission to, at some point, assess the effects of EU accession in these countries, which is one of the conditions for every EU enlargement.

Besides an unequivocal confirmation of credibility of a perspective for accession of successful candidates, this move would have a positive effect of additional motivation for countries in the region to undertake all necessary reforms in order to take advantage of this opportunity because it concerns financial support that is several folds higher than the current. Additionally, the Strategy should address the fears of citizens of the Western Balkans, who largely define their relationship towards the process of European integration and Union itself.

Their fears are mainly caused by socio-economic reasons. Most of the people who belong to the eurosceptic group believe that their unfavourable position is indeed due the reforms undertaken in the EU accession process and the transition to a market economy. The results of this approach would be helpful in several ways.

Simultaneously, it would ensure a stronger public support for the continuation of reforms and the legitimacy of the EU accession process. The implementation of this approach will require not only creativity of the European Commission but also a vision of European political leaders. A credible perspective of EU enlargement Strategy must be based on a legitimate request for an also credible approach of countries in the region for the continuation of the accession process.

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This request must first of all be directed towards an unequivocal confirmation of the commitment to EU membership and fundamental democratic changes. Unfortunately, in most countries in the region, there is an evident gap between the declared priority and the reality. Institutions are occupied by politics, which is reflected through various and obvious cases of undue political influence on the work of the judiciary, public sector employment that violates clearly defined criteria, demeaning and endangering the functioning of independent institutions and regulatory bodies, creating an atmosphere of economic uncertainty that affects the freedom of the media, to rendering the Parliament useless as a legislative body whose role is to check the executive branch, not to be its transmission.

In such circumstances, it is legitimate that the EU requires substantive democratic change from the candidates. The achievement of this goal involves leadership, leading by example and taking responsibility for change in society, hence sending a clear message to citizens about the importance of the integration process in order to achieve full democratic legitimacy, which is necessary so that the importance of this transformative process is recognized and accepted by the citizens.