The speech of Mr Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Vice-Chair of Lithuanian Parliament and Chair of the Committee on European Affairs, at the “ECOSY Future Leaders Conference” Vilnius, 8th of November 2003 Challenges of EU enlargement
Dear Young Europeans,
When we speak about the challenges of EU enlargement, I can only mention three of them. But what a scope of these three challenges! A scope that will guarantee enough job for us in coming years…
So the challenges we are facing are three: a political, a social-economic and a psychological.
But before I go into details, let me state the following: I firmly believe that the challenge of non-enlargement would have been much more dramatic if not fatal. Let us never forget this.
Allow me first to dwell upon the political challenge which is the most significant one. Our degree of success in tackling this challenge will greatly influence the success of enlargement in general.
I understand the political challenge as follows: we have to preserve the best characteristics of current European Union’s political structure and at the same time reform it. In other words, the question is: how to change the current system without changing its fundamentals?
What we need is a fine-tuned combination of old tradition and bold reform. Some say – mission impossible. I say the contrary – mission perfectly possible. Provided that we agree on the essential things.
As a member of the European Convention, I would like to underline one of these essentials, one of these old good things, namely the Community method.
That is a unique European invention. A step-by-step integration implemented in a balanced triangle “Council – Commission – European Parliament”.
If we were to discredit this cornerstone of European Project and opt for a pure intergovernmental approach – well, then we would make a big step back in our history.
Beside the internal political challenges that I mentioned, we also have an external political challenge. It is our policy toward our new neighbours, the so-called new neighbours initiative.
Let me again repeat my previous point - if we do not succeed in taking up the political challenge, be it internal or external, all the rest will not matter. This applies to the new neighbours initiative.
Lithuanian border with the new neighbours will make up one fifth of all the new Union’s Eastern border. It is in our interest to promote good neighbourly relations. And we are doing this. This new border has to be a friendly one. We don’t need new iron curtains.
Europe’s cultural, economic and social investments in the Kaliningrad and other neighbouring regions of Russia have to be increased. We have to show that the enlarged Union is beneficial for everybody, including its neighbours. Of course, Russia has yet to prove its democratic credentials. Therefore our policy, especially after the events linked to the oil company “Yukos”, has to be prudent.
Belarus remains an headache for its neighbours. But Belarus is our neighbour. We cannot allow ourselves a luxury of promoting the policy of isolation. Patience and policy based on the balance between pragmatism and respect for human right must be our guiding principles. As regards Ukraine, another big neighbour, we must closely observe its development, assist where we can, do not interfere where we are not asked, and help to build the basics of democracy. The same applies to Moldova.
To sum up the political challenge: we must preserve the unique Community method and at the same time use the momentum of enlargement for making Europe a more dynamic project. And we must not forget that we live not in a fortress but next to our neighbours who often need our attention.
Now we come to the second challenge, the social-economic challenge. How to modernise sometimes outdated job markets and welfare systems and yet to preserve the main social achievement in Western Europe? How to create a vibrant social market economy and at the same time fight poverty in Central and Eastern Europe?
The socialist answer would be to reject the dogmatic liberalism and follow the guidelines of Lisbon strategy. This strategy, adopted mainly by the socialist governments, foresees the development of new technologies which, in turn, ensure the creation of new jobs.
A quick and smooth social and economic integration of new member states is a priority. Accession talks and the EU referenda raised some expectations from the part of population in accession countries. Now we must justify these expectations.
But even that is not the biggest problem. What really matters for us, socialists, is the poverty that strikes a significant part of our citizens. In Lithuania poor people make up a third of population.
We all know that the concept of Social Europe is not adopted unanimously across the Union. We all know that the social and a big part of economic policy remains in hands of members states.
So we should try to bring up changes in this field. We should speak louder about this in our capitals, in Brussels and in Strasburg. And at the same time try to change things in our own countries.
Solidarity as a general concept should prevail against liberal and conservative ideas and policies. The key instruments to achieve this solidarity are structural and cohesion funds.
To sum up the social-economic challenge, Europe should modernise it economic structure without abolishing its social achievements, and new member states should combine economic growth with socially sensible policy and make best use of structural and cohesion funds.
The last challenge of enlargement that I would like to underline is a psychological one. Getting to know each other. Listening to each other. And understanding each other.
Some would ask – is it really a challenge? I would say that it is probably the most serious one. And again – young people who have no old prejudice are best placed to create a new psychological environment of understanding.
Should we fail in promoting understanding among our nations, unforeseen political problems could emerge. For example, we are not blind and we already see that the radical and populist right is raising its ugly head. No one is better placed to oppose this tendency than young European socialists.
As I told you, the basic challenges of EU enlargement are only three, but what challenges!
But when I look at you today, I also say – what a brave young people you are! And these challenges are for you. You must take them.
Even the words “challenge” and “youth” are akin. You can’t imagine challenge without youth – and vice versa.
Let me wish you to live up to these European challenges!