Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


COM(00) 700

(21834 - 21836;
21846 - 21852;
21866 - 21868)
13366/00 - 13788/00

Enlargement Strategy Paper: Report on progress towards
accession by each of the candidate countries.

Regular reports for 2000 from the Commission on
progress towards accession by Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech
Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Legal base:
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 5 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-iv (2000-01), paragraph 6 (24 January 2001)
Discussed in Council: 4 December 2000
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

The Enlargement Strategy Paper

  11.1  The strategy paper sets out at some length the historical context, the enlargement process, and the pre-accession strategy, before making some general comments on the progress of the candidate countries in meeting the membership criteria. It then describes the accession negotiations, before recording its formal conclusions. This document accompanies the third set of annual reports by the Commission on the progress of each of the candidate countries towards EU membership.

The Commission's assessment

  11.2  In the 13 individual progress reports, the Commission assesses each candidate country's readiness against the "Copenhagen criteria" agreed at the 1993 European Council. It found that, in general, most candidates have made good progress towards meeting the obligations of EU membership since last year. The progress reports highlight progress in transposing the acquis communautaire (the corpus of EU law) and in economic restructuring. They point up areas, including corruption and public administration reform, which need further work.


  11.3  We asked the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) to comment more fully on these documents when we considered them on 24 January. We put several specific questions and also asked him to forward the 4 December 2000 General Affairs Council (GAC) Report on Enlargement to the Nice European Council.

The Minister's letter

— Acceptance of the Applicant States

  11.4  We asked if the Government had reached a view on whether the applicant States should be accepted in one group, (the "Big Bang" approach), or in smaller groups or individually, (the "regatta" approach). The Minister recalls that the Prime Minister said on 6 October 2000 in Warsaw that the Government wanted to see new Member States taking part in the European Parliament elections in 2004. He adds:

"We want as many new members as are ready to take part in those elections. And those that are ready should not wait for others who are not. It is not possible to predict at this stage which Member States will be ready to join when."

— The road map

  11.5  We asked the Minister whether the Government agreed with the schedules drawn up by the Commission in this detailed timetable. He welcomes it as:

"a specific framework leading to an early end of the negotiations and accession... committing the EU to bring forward its Common Positions in all remaining chapters over the next eighteen months and signalling the possibility of completing negotiations with the best prepared countries in 2002. We fully support the flexible approach to the road map endorsed by the Council: it is not a timetable to be rigidly followed, but a framework that must be adapted to the situations of individual candidates, allowing for the possibility that the best prepared can make faster progress, while the less well prepared advance more slowly".

The Minister adds that the Government welcomes the aim of the Swedish Presidency to "beat" the road map.

— Parking difficult issues

  11.6  The Government supports the GAC Report in saying that difficult issues should only be parked in exceptional circumstances after every effort has been made in negotiations. It is too early to say yet, according to the Minister, which issues will have to be resolved at the highest level towards the end of the negotiations. They may well be different for different candidates. He then comments:

"The Commission's road map schedules the veterinary and phyto-sanitary aspects of agriculture for the Belgian Presidency in the second half of this year (though the Swedes want to begin work on this under their Presidency), with other aspects of the chapter falling to the Spanish Presidency next year. Given that around half, or 40,000 pages, of the acquis deals with agriculture, there are inevitably going to be some difficult issues to resolve. Moreover, for the six countries who began negotiations in 1998, the Commission has identified 340 requests for transitional periods in the agriculture chapter: more than double the number in the other 30 chapters put together. It is already clear that the candidates have much to do in order to meet EU standards — which is one reason why the Swedish Presidency hope to begin work early on the veterinary and phyto-sanitary issues. It may be that some aspects of the agriculture chapter will not be resolved until the end of negotiations."

— Free movement of workers

  11.7  The Minister comments on the German Chancellor's call for a seven- year transition period to cushion the effect on the border areas of Germany, saying that this is an area of negotiation which is sensitive for both the applicant countries and for some Member States. Despite this, the UK fully supports the Swedish Government in its efforts to close this chapter provisionally during its Presidency. The Commission, he says, is currently preparing a paper on the subject for discussion by the Member States in March.

— The GAC Report

  11.8  The Minister says that the report consists of a three-page overview of the enlargement process and describes it in some detail.


  11.9  The Minister's comments give us a better idea of the Government's thinking on these issues and we now clear the documents.

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