Southeastern Enlargement of the EU
Simulation-Workshop at the Hebrew University,
26.06.2007 · Forschungsgruppe Jugend und Europa
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Thus, on the 17-18 June 2007, twenty-six students of the European Forum and the Helmut Kohl Institute for European Studies of Hebrew University, along with fellow students from Universities in the United Kingdom and Germany, took on the challenge of a further round of enlargement, opening and conducting accession-negotiations with Macedonia and Turkey. For two days, the students became Foreign Ministers in the Council, Members of the European Parliament, EU Commissioners or heads of delegation of the applicant and later candidate states of Macedonia and Turkey.
The simulation covered the whole process of enlargement, from the handing in of the actual application, the initial two-pronged check, followed by the opening of accession negotiations and the eventual signing of accession treaties.
The students from Israel and Europe were prepared for the subject and their respective roles in the simulation in guided research. They received role profiles, background information, forms to update and the like. The materials covered their position on enlargement in general and on the two applicants in particular.
The research was tutored by Tamir Sinai of the Centre for Applied Policy Research, Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. The event itself took place at the Beit Maiersdorf conference centre at the Hebrew University.
The simulation was opened by Dr. Yitzhak Brudny, Member of the Academic Committee of the European Forum at the Hebrew University and Mr. Rolf Behrens, of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation Israel who greeted the students in the name of the Foundation, the sponsor of the event.
The simulation began with the opening ceremony and statements by the Presidency of the EU, Germany, and the President of the European Commission, represented by Stephanie Carstensen, Munich University, who welcomed the expression of willingness of the potential candidates and stressed the importance of the enlargement process to a Europe of peace, stability and prosperity.
The representatives of Macedonia and Turkey than handed in their applications to the Council which scrutinized on the minimal requirements of "Europeanness" and "Democracy". In these first discussions it became clear that no clear-cut separation between enlargement and the necessary internal reforms of the EU could be made a subject which would trail the negotiations for their entire duration.
Still the Council decided on accepting both as applicants, informed the EP and tasked the Commission with drafting Opinions on the applicants that would serve the Union as a framework for possible negotiations. In Parliament, the Committee for Foreign Relations started its work, well knowing that their role would be limited in this policy field if they didnt continuously push for a larger say on the matter. Throughout the process the Members of the European Parliament had to find a way to make a positive contribution to the negotiation process which was about to start. The aim was to avoid having to be called upon to give their assent without having influenced the issue beforehand.
The Commission meanwhile screened the candidates, a process of mutual getting-to-know the other side, in which the Commission and candidates identified and clarified the most prominent issues that had to be resolved before accession could be possible.
The Council, based on the positive Opinion of the Commission (fulfilment of the Copenhagen political Criteria by Macedonia and Turkey), than decided unanimously to open negotiations.
The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)
At this stage the EU inaugurated an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) which would include the Council, the Commission and the now-candidate states. The IGC's aim was to negotiate accession modalities in the different chapters identified by the Commission and close the chapters once agreement on derogation periods and the like was achieved. All these conditions would than be included in accession treaties with the two candidates.
The Commission conducted the negotiations with the candidates together with the Presidency and determined that negotiations would start with Macedonia first. The country, enjoying much support for its membership bid in the Council (as well as in Parliament), found open ears for its significant problems and managed to convince the Commission, the Council and also the EP that it would be able to fulfil the EUs requirements, even if it meant taking on rigorous transformation programs, especially with regard to the reduction of unemployment and corruption. Chapters were closed one by one as various aid and advisory programs as well as derogation periods (i.e. free movement of workers) were formulated and agreed upon.
Meanwhile, deliberations in Parliament were going in a different direction. It became clear that the problem would not be Macedonia's accession but, for various reasons, Turkey's. A sizable portion of MEP's would have preferred a privileged partnership for Turkey instead of full membership from the beginning. But the Turkish delegation, extremely well prepared could answer eloquently all the existing misconceptions and fears as well as genuine doubts and succeeded in convincing the Parliamentarians of the sincerity of their efforts. Still, Turkey's membership was still far from being a closed deal.
Deliberations in the IGC continued, tough negotiations, chapter by chapter went on for hours, challenging the Turkish delegation to the limit. In the end, also due to the support that Turkey did enjoy in the Council, most notably by the United Kingdom, represented by Christine Weisserth of the University of Sussex, Brighton, Turkey did manage to answer all the questions posed by the Union and the tide slowly turned.
The Commission and the Council formulated accession treaties for both countries, Macedonia and Turkey, which were than passed on to Parliament for its assent. The accession treaty for Turkey notably included a paragraph which stated that accession would not come into force unless internal reforms, of i.e. the Common Agricultural Policy and Structural Funds had taken place stressing the "fourth" Copenhagen Criteria for enlargement which refers to the necessary condition of absorption capacity of the Union itself.
The ball passed to the MEP's now, who did not see themselves as a mere "rubber stamp" though and returned the documents presented by the IGC with requests for amendments. These additional conditions were accepted by the Council and voting on the final document could begin.
In a historic decision, the European Parliament, satisfied that they had not only scrutinized the candidates Macedonia and Turkey satisfactory but also bolstered the powers of the EP, decided by a slight margin that both could join the Union.
In festive speeches on the conclusion of the negotiation with Macedonia and Turkey this memorable hour was celebrated.
It became clear to all participants that enlargement is a complex process. Further enlargement of the EU is today as dependent on internal reforms, a difficult and painful process, than on the condition of the candidates.
The role of Parliament remains weak and depends on the Parliament's efforts to carve out a more prominent role for itself. The MEPs saw that no one will give Parliament more powers or include them in the process if they don't insist on it.
The Council, safe in the knowledge that it is and will remain the main decision-making body in the process, learned that cooperating with Parliament and the Commission does facilitate a smoother ride in the end. The Commission, professional as usual, found itself faced with the sometimes endless and nationally-motivated bickering and had to use all her diplomatic skills to bring the member states back under the common roof. Fortunately it was aided by the forceful German presidency and with a combined effort could bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
All these efforts still did not conclude the enlargement process: ratification in all 27 member states still awaits the candidates and especially the de-facto right of veto given by the French Parliament to the French electorate, any enlargement by law must pass a referendum, is far from decided yet. This was one of the reasons why France agreed to Turkey's accession in the Council while his party colleague in the EP voted against
The students agreed that they were given a rare inside-look into the workings of the Union, where its power lies and what the content and procedures of enlargement are and on top of that did have the opportunity to exchange their views and understandings with their fellow students from Europe.
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