Select Committee on European Communities Twenty-First Report


166. We have consistently supported enlargement of the European Union to bring in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe since it first became possible as a result of the political changes in those States. We believe that after the recent events in the Balkans it is now even more important to seize the moment - the term "political imperative" is, for once, not out of place.

167. We recognise that the need to conform to the standards adopted by the existing Member States presents the applicant States with genuine difficulties, which are not merely economic but political and social as well. But the ultimate decision on whether and when applicants join the European Union depends not only on the readiness of the applicants to enter but also - and just as importantly - on the readiness of the Union to receive them.

168. It is the responsibility of the existing Member States to ensure that the European Union has the appropriate structures and policies in place to permit enlargement. This in particular calls for timely agreement on appropriate institutional changes at an IGC, and for the necessary reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. In addition, since the acquis is a dynamic rather than a static entity, applicants must be kept abreast of how it is developing so that they know what they are likely to be buying in to.

169. If there is a political wish among existing Member States to accelerate enlargement, they must face the crucial question of whether applicants should be allowed to join before they have not only adopted, but also implemented, the whole of the acquis communautaire. There is no point in pretending that this question will not arise. Member States must come to grips with the fact that the price of accelerated enlargement may well be the acceptance of what would amount to a two tier EU membership for several years to come. We think this is a price which the European Union can and should pay, though we emphasise that such a decision should not be allowed to remove the pressure for new Members to play their full part as soon as possible. If they want the right political outcome, governments—including our own—must err on the side of generosity rather than restrictiveness.

170. The Committee considers that the issue of enlargement of the European Union raises important questions to which the attention of the House should be drawn, and makes this Report to the House for debate.

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