Mixed opinions on enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy

Beatrix Boonekamp
Since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the countries applying for EU membership “can breathe again”, underlines Libération.[1] The further enlargement of the European Union had been closely linked to the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, when serving as President of the European Council, had made it very clear that, in a Union that could not even agree on adopting more functional institutions, the accession of additional countries could only make the situation worse. The adoption of the treaty was therefore a sine qua non condition for further enlargement.
Iceland and Croatia, 28th and 29th EU member states?
Two countries are now expected to join the Union during the upcoming years, Croatia and Iceland. Some observers have been underlining Iceland’s opportunism, arguing that the country had been ignoring the European Union for decades until the financial crisis finally allowed it to see the benefits it could find in the EU.[2] The fast adhesion process was, for a number of analysts, closely linked to the Icesave dossier; the rejection of the latter by 93 percent of the Icelandic population, in March 2010, led the same analysts to believe that it could undermine the country’s chances of a fast adhesion to the EU, and isolate it on the international scene.[3] As previously mentioned, Croatia is expected to conclude the negotiation process soon, and to be part of the EU by 2012, at the latest. Its adhesion is strongly supported by the French government, which underlines the fact that it is important for the stabilisation of this part of Europe.
France has always been very supportive of the adhesion of the Balkan countries to the EU. In Le Monde, co-signed with his Italian homologue Franco Frattini, Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner underlined, once again, his support for the adhesion of the Balkan countries, which have vocation to join the EU, as soon as they meet all the requirements.[4] But most analysts are now stressing the fact that all further adhesion processes are very likely to be delayed: the European leaders now have “more urgent matters to focus on”. The Greek crisis is also very likely to have a negative impact, by making the adhesion criteria more demanding.[5]
Why keep refusing Turkey’s accession?
The question of Turkey’s accession has always been very controversial in France. French President Nicolas Sarkozy stands firmly against it, and took advantage of the French Presidency of the European Union to clearly reaffirm his position. He now advocates a privileged partnership, linking the European Union, Turkey and Russia, which would represent an alternative to its accession.[6] Meanwhile, former French President Jacques Chirac underlined the “shared destiny” between the two countries, and the necessity to develop the tightest links possible.[7] “Why keep refusing this adhesion?” asks Bernard Guetta from left-wing daily Libération, arguing that the latter would represent a good opportunity to prove to Muslim neighbour countries that the EU and Islam are not incompatible, and actually have a shared destiny. According to the economics daily Les Echos, “If Europe lacks the courage to propose a long-term strategic vision, the Oriental temptation will prevail and the country which we do not want with us now will be against us in the future. At which point, Europe will have the Turkey it deserves”.[8]
European Neighbourhood Policy: the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership.
The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has enjoyed a lot of coverage in France, being one of Nicolas Sarkozy main projects during the French Presidency. The media have been underlining how difficult this project is, given the internal disagreements (a string of mines according to Le Figaro), and the lack of commitment of most heads of states;[9] under this context, the activism and determination of two countries, France and Spain, is quite unanimously recognised, and contrasts with the clear lack of political will from the Southern countries. According to an analyst, the Arabic countries will not commit to the Union for the Mediterranean unless they see clear political and/or economical benefits, and this is far from being the case so far. The Socialist MEP in charge of the parliamentary report on the UfM, Vincent Peillon, has a more optimistic point of view though; he considers that the Union for the Mediterranean is actually managing to work effectively towards peace building in the region through concrete projects and realisations. He nevertheless argues that the European Union needs to demonstrate its strong commitment by putting money on the table during the Barcelona Summit that was to be held in June 2010.[10] Finally, some observers criticise a certain lack of overall ambition. Economist Jean-Louis Guigou argues that, to be successful, the UfM cannot be the free trade zone proposed by José Manuel Barroso, but has to be a wider project including common social and environmental policies.[11]

The Eastern Partnership has received a lot less coverage in France. It has been described as a mere copy of the Union for the Mediterranean.[12] Some analysts question the novelty of this partnership and the existence of real advantages for the beneficiary countries.[13]

[1] Quatremer, J.: 2020, L’Union des 27?, Libération, 30/12/2009.

[2] Reuters: Les pays bas lient l’adhésion de l’Icelande au plan Icesave, 06/03/2010.

[3] Cafebabel: L’Islande rejette l’Icesave” et risque l’isolement, 08/03/2010, available at: (last access: 04/06/2010).

[4] Kouchner, B.: Chaque Etat des Balkans a vocation a entrer dans l’UE, Le Monde, 13/03/2010.

[5] Rupnik, J.: L’Union Européenne est un substitute d’Empire vis a vis des Balkans, Le Monde, 10/05/2010.

[6] Libération: Nicolas Sarkozy n’ignore plus la Turquie, 21/04/2010.

[7] Chirac, J.: UE – Turquie: un Destin partage, AFP, 11/05/2010.

[8] Moisi, D.: La Turquie de nos mérites, Les Echos, 11/01/2010.

[9] Le Figaro: L’Union pour la Méditerranée, en mal de soutiens, 10/02/2010.

[10] Peillon, V.: L’union pour la méditerranée est sortie des limbes, 19/10/2010, available at: (last access: 04/06/2010).

[11] Guigou, J. L.: Pour un protectionnisme euro-méditerranéen, Les Echos, 20/04/2010.

[12] Holveck, F.: Vers un partenariat privilégié avec les six pays de l’ex-URSS, MCSinfo, Université Robert Schuman, Strasbourg, 12/03/2009.

[13] Touteleurope: UE-Partenariat oriental: quelle perspectives?, 15/12/2009, available at: (last access: 04/06/2010).