Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas

Enlargement the European Union and New Tasks by Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis Deputy Chairman of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs Member of the Convention on the Future of Europe Vienna, 25 June 2003

Fundamental changes of the last decades in Central and Eastern Europe escaped global conflicts that were typical to in the middle and second half of the 20th century. That was predetermined by many factors. I believe that the following were the key factors: strengthening of democracies, a successful European Communities project, successful activity of NATO in the Cold War environment, establishment of a social market model in the Member States of the European Union, founding of the European Union, fall of a planned market economy, success of anti-totalitarian democratic liberation movements in the Eastern block, i.e. Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States, Russia, globalisation of economic, trade and information processes, and Mikhail Gorbachev's reform policy.

It all started with the breakdown of the USSR. It was the breakdown of the USSR block without major military conflicts that paved the way to EU enlargement. In contrast, that was not the case when the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia broke down, which brought about religious and ethnic conflicts, war and instability throughout this region. Slovenia was the only one that succeeded in stepping on a peaceful road of reforms and was the earliest to turn towards the enlargement.

I believe that it was due to peaceful, democratic and reform processes in Central and Eastern Europe that the European Union enlargement is possible. The societies of these states experienced hard trials in their effort to find ways of making transition from planned to market economy, from totalitarianism to democracy, to the rule of law, and that would not be possible without European Union support and effective EU tactics. Enlargement has become the most effective political instrument for the European Union as well as for Central and Eastern European countries. The current stage of European Union enlargement and unification of Europe is very different from the previous EU enlargement. In that case the countries acceding to the European Union were democracies based on a social market economy and on a more or less similar level of economic and social development, also united by similar cultural traditions. What we have now is twelve countries with their different experiences, characterised by considerable economic backwardness and relatively weak mechanisms of democratic self-regulation, acceding to the European Union. The latter statement is evidenced by these tables (Table 1 and Table 2). One more interesting phenomenon of development should be noted, i.e. the number of national states acceding to the EU is unprecedented. The history of Europe has never experienced it yet! This is the first time that we have such a large number of national states in the whole Europe! It is the first time that we see such an intensive round of accession to the European Union, which is an energetic stage of building common unification foundations. One more peculiarity stands out – the nature of unifying common values cherished in the European Union. I believe that the Convention on the Future of Europe is a clear evidence of the latter. We must admit that acceding countries proved to be equal partners. No separate “candidate countries” block appeared, no inferiority complex was felt, delegates of candidate countries contributed with their proposals into the resolution of issues under Convention consideration. The Convention demonstrated the power of compromise reached by 28 very different states! The Convention’s constructive work is a good sign of the success of the enlargement. The enlargement, however, only starts its operation while the Convention has opened up a qualitatively new stage of the European Union development. On the one hand, the stage of the enforcement of the Accession Treaty will start in 12 acceding countries, on the other, the endeavour of implementing the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union will cover all the European Union Members. Both old and new EU Members become the signatories of the new EU Constitutional Treaty, which implies quite a few tasks to all on all levels – on the EU level, on a regional level, and on the level of national states, which means tasks to municipalities, regions, governments, as well as parliaments. I would like to underline the significance of the work carried out during the years of the enlargement to our parliament:

1. ratification of treaties and the accession referendum,

2. completion of the approximation of national law with the acquis,

3. development of a new institutional model evolving from “negotiations with the European Union” to “participation in the European Union matters”,

4. development of enhanced co-operation between national parliaments and the European Parliament,

5. provision of information to the public and its education,

6. implementation of the strategy for bringing EU nations closer – search for a common European identity and provision of information about own country to other EU members,

7. involvement in the parliamentary control of the upcoming IGC and ratification of the new Constitutional Treaty of the European Union,

8. shaping of new stability, cohesion and security policies of the European Union,

9. programme for the implementation of the Lisbon strategy,

10. new enlargement prospects – neighbours of the European Union.

I am convinced that we have come to the point when all the parliaments, i.e. of both old and new Member States, have to realise that the whole European Union gets into a qualitatively new stage and that “homework” must be done by all the states together. The very context – the context of common interests – suggests the urgency of the enlargement-induced policy of cohesion of EU Member States, ensuring member equality and equity, and enhancement of solidarity.

Accession of 10 or 12 new countries to the European Union will result in an internal EU problem of two-speed Europe. For that reason the policy of European Union cohesion, co-ordination of socio-economic policies, formation of an employment strategy, and a strategy for ensuring minimum social standards become of utmost importance. Sustainable development and the policy of enforcement of environmental standards will call for new efforts. EU regional policy plays an increasingly important role. The European Union gets a large internal market, almost 500 million consumers, that becomes a serious potential source of economic growth. The benefit of infrastructure projects – road, railway, environmental protection, energy (gas and oil pipelines, electric power networks) projects, and infrastructure itself is of particular importance in this context. Lithuania alone can offer quite a few joint projects: Via Baltica, Rail Baltica, gas pipeline around the Baltic Sea, and interconnection of Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian power networks with European Union networks (Tables 3-7). Similar projects might be prepared by Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other countries. This is a regional strategy in operation, capable of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. A good example is the Baltic Sea region comprised of very different states. Some countries are members of the European Union and NATO, others are members of the European Union only, while Norway is associated with the European Union. A very important old neighbour of the European Union is Russia, and Belarus is a new EU neighbour, influential, though, in the Baltic Sea region (Table 8). I believe that the Baltic Sea region has good prospects within the European Union.

Today Lithuania makes good use of European Union support. PHARE, SAPARD and ISPA have given good results. Our economic growth has accelerated. However, after accession to the European Union we may encounter new short-term economic difficulties due to the enforcement of new requirements in respect to our trade relations with our eastern neighbours (Tables 9-11) Therefore, in order to cushion all the possible negative consequences we need a new European Union regional strategy – the EU strategy focused on the Baltic Sea region. The Baltic Sea region becomes a location where a “New Neighbours” policy is implemented in reality, with particular emphasis on the EU Eastern Dimension.

The enlargement is bringing about new ideas – “Wider Europe”, new neighbours and possibilities of further EU enlargement. Regional policy instruments may give a new impetus to new EU members as well as to its neighbours. The case of proof is Finland’s accession to the European Union.

Finland’s accession to the European Union gave birth to the Northern Dimension that has already proved its effectiveness. After EU enlargement to the Central and Eastern Europe, the Eastern Dimension must be taken into account. The European Union will have a common border with Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine and Moldova. The development of the Eastern Dimension may become the value added to co-operation between the European Union and its new neighbours. The goal pursued by the Dimension should be an encouragement to social, economic, infrastructure and other reforms in the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Russia. It might contribute to peace and stability, expansion of the area of freedom, building of safe and prosperous Europe, and development of common values.

Appearance of new borders or dividing lines in Europe is neither tolerated nor accepted. The EU–Russian dimension initiative might prevent the appearance of such borders or lines. This dimension might support the appearance of potentially new EU candidate countries from among its neighbours in the future, for example, the Ukraine, the President of which has already voiced such a wish, or Moldova. The initiative would promote “export” of stability to our new neighbours.

The Eastern Dimension would be a strategically important and qualitatively different trend than, say, the European Union Southern Dimension. No new enlargement prospects are currently shaping in the Southern direction, expect the Balkans. Moreover, keeping of stability and concluding mutually beneficial agreements for resolving issues of illegal migration, fight against terrorism, etc. come to the forefront in that region.

The Eastern Dimension, just the opposite, is the direction with prospects of achieving two goals. First, continued enlargement, which is possible in a long-term perspective in the case of Moldova and the Ukraine, as mentioned before. Second, building a European Economic Area with a country such as Russia, because Russia is and should continue to be an important strategic partner of the European Union. A dialogue between Russia and the European Union would strengthen Euro-Atlantism, and ensure more rapid development of Euro-Asia.

In its quality, that would be a new stage in international relations, facilitating fulfilment of several tasks: building an area of European stability and economic growth, reinforcing instruments to withstand globalisation challenges and development of a potentially new enlargement perspective. Diverse are the forms of co-operation and mechanisms of implementation as is the role of the European Union Member States. Some form of co-operation between the European Union and the Ukraine as well as Moldova, a different one - between the EU and Belarus should be applied. While Russia–EU co-operation mechanisms might be shaped for the settlement of Kaliningrad problems in the near future.

The Kaliningrad Region should become a pilot and priority project. Lithuania is one of the most active partners of co-operation with Kaliningrad in the framework of the Northern Dimension. However, involvement of the Region in the EU Eastern Dimension might give additional impetus for the growth and development of Kaliningrad. In other words, the Kaliningrad region would get a double benefit from the two initiatives mentioned above.

We must not neglect Belarus despite its political situation. Just the opposite, engagement of Belarus in the initiatives of the EU's Eastern Dimension would be of real importance, which is particularly true about cross-border co-operation. More active contacts with a non-governmental sector in Belarus and concrete regional projects could contribute to the acceleration of reforms in this country.

Both Lithuania and other countries, I believe, should make certain that the EU's Eastern Dimension became a stable dimension of the European Union. When carrying out its internal reforms in its pre-accession period, Lithuania accumulated valuable experience that can now be shared with our neighbours in Eastern Europe. That is our duty.

The Eastern Dimension would bear a triple benefit: to old EU Member States, to its new members as well as to Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine and Moldova. With new markets and new business opportunities having opened and with infrastructure projects underway, old European Union Members could increase the pace of their economic growth. To new European Union Members it would help to reduce economic and social differences more rapidly, compared with the old EU members, and to increase jobs. While in the case of Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine and Moldova it would facilitate economic, democratic, social and infrastructure reforms as well as settling the issues of regional geopolitical security.

In my view, all the actors should prepare joint transport, energy, telecommunications, infrastructure, environmental as well as justice and home affairs, combat with international crime, border management, migration, etc. projects in the framework of the EU's Eastern Dimension.

By building the European Economic Area, the European Union would give access to the internal market to its Eastern European neighbours. That would promote preparation of business, culture, education, tourism, health and other projects. On the other hand, it is as important whether Eastern neighbours are open, whether they approximate their legislation with the EU acquis and enforce it, whether their administrative capacity is reinforced and whether they are active partners in implementing the requirement of the European Economic Area.

Therefore, the European Union enlargement and unification of Europe may realistically change the face of Europe. They may turn Europe into a strong world player able to deal with the tendencies of unilateralism in world politics. For that reason, I think, it is high time efficient ways of the resolving new tasks were found in the context of EU development and unification of Europe. This is the chance we have never had before. Such challenges are worth getting the format of EU projects for the sake of long-term peace, stability, sustainable development and social justice. It is a noble task in the current reality of the world troubled by great controversies.

Naujausi pakeitimai - 2004 02 19.
Eglë Lasauskaitë

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