Croatia and Iceland first, Turkey and Macedonia to follow

Andreja Slomšek and Jure Požgan
 
Slovenia expects two new members
 
The EU enlargement, and especially the EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, remains a priority foreign policy action for Slovenia. As a consequence, Slovenia will continue to work towards the convergence and integration of, above all, Western Balkan countries (Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo), but also Turkey and Iceland into the EU.[1] According to the statements of the Slovenian PM Borut Pahor in the media, Slovenia expects that, in the next enlargement round, the new member states of the EU will be Croatia and Iceland. As stressed by Pahor in December 2009, the EU should, however, not postpone this process after this enlargement round. His estimation was that in 2011 the EU will probably have 29 members.[2]
 

Enlargement favoured but not at any price

Vladimír Bilčík
 
Historically, Slovakia has been a strong supporter of enlargement, though in recent years the country’s position has become more nuanced. Most consistently, Slovakia’s politicians have supported Croatia’s bid to enter the European Union. Shortly after Slovakia’s accession to the EU, the country was unhappy with the initial Council’s decision to postpone the opening of accession talks with Croatia beyond March 2004. The then Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda was a vocal advocate and one of the driving forces of Croatia’s swift incorporation into the Union. Slovakia’s diplomacy thus continued to push for a re-examination of the Council’s decision and was happy to welcome the compromise solution whereby both Croatia and Turkey officially began their respective accession talks on 3 October (or the early hours of 4 October) 2005. In the aftermath of the launch of official talks with the two countries, Prime Minister Dzurinda stated during his press conference that Slovakia would offer Croatia cooperation in negotiations on the various chapters of the acquis. At the same time, the Prime Minister said that Slovakia would try to see both Ukraine and Serbia and Montenegro enter the same path of European integration.[1]
 

Croatia, Iceland, Turkey, Moldova

Agnes Nicolescu
 
Croatia most likely to join the EU
 
As reflected in the Romanian press,[1] the most likely country to join the EU is Croatia, followed by Serbia, despite the lagging dispute over Kosovo. The focus is on the economic progress achieved by Croatia so far, as compared to countries like Romania and Bulgaria – which are already members of the EU – and on the fact that interruptions and delays in Zagreb’s path towards EU membership were mostly connected to the consequences of the armed conflicts in the early 1990s. Some experts suggest that, should it not have been for the territorial disputes with Slovenia, Croatia would have become an EU member in 2004.[2]
 
Croatia’s efforts to meet the accession criteria are viewed in a positive light by Romanian officials. On the occasion of a meeting between Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Baconschi with Gordan Jandroković, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Croatia, the head of Romanian diplomacy “appreciated the accelerated pace of negotiations for accession to the European Union, emphasising the important role the Republic of Croatia plays in the region.”[3]
 

The Netherlands: “firm but fair” towards new EU member states

Simone Wolters
 
The Netherlands’ position is lukewarm towards further EU enlargement. Many political parties hold sceptical views towards a possible accession of new member states. All political parties have clear standpoints regarding the possible accession of certain countries or regions to the EU. During last year’s elections for the European Parliament and in the upcoming national elections the possible accession of Turkey to the EU is a point of discussion, with the Party for Freedom (PVV) being particularly vocal about its opposition to Turkish EU membership. Almost all political parties state specific standpoints on EU enlargement on their websites and a majority of these websites report on possible enlargement with certain countries. Regarding a possible EU enlargement, some political parties raise the issue of the EU’s absorption capacity and the necessity to increase this absorption capacity before new countries can enter the Union.[1]
 

Union for the Mediterranean must not be an alternative to Turkish membership

Çiğdem Üstün
 
Enlargement
 
Turkey started its accession negotiations in 2005 and since then Turkey has been more interested in its accession process than the enlargement debate regarding other countries, i.e., Iceland and Croatia. It has been perceived that Turkey’s accession to the EU is not considered part of any previous enlargement rounds (i.e., 2004, 2007) or any future enlargements either. In this framework, Iceland’s membership to the EU was not widely discussed in Turkey. Iceland’s membership has been seen as a consequence of the economic crisis affecting the whole world and Europe as part of it. It has been argued that Iceland’s integration to the EU would have a minimum effect on the EU’s governance structures due to its small size. The main problems seen in the accession negotiations are related to agricultural and fisheries policies due to the common market and regulations on fishing, i.e., whales.[1]
 

Croatia’s membership promoted

Stephen Calleya
 
The government of Malta has been a consistent proponent of Croatia’s membership application. The foreign ministries of both Croatia and Malta have interacted regularly in an effort to promote Croatia’s membership bid. Thus, Malta believes Croatia will become a member of the EU in the next round of enlargement. Such a development will have a positive impact on strengthening stability across the Balkans and further enhance the Mediterranean dimension of the European Union.
 
Malta is also supportive of the EU applications of Montenegro and Iceland.[1] Malta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been in close contact with both countries and offered support to further their EU accession negotiations.
 
Discussion regarding EU membership applications is primarily carried out at a governmental level with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly commenting on this issue. There is a consensus across the political spectrum in Malta that only those states that fully meet the Copenhagen Criteria should be allowed to join the European Union. No consideration should be given entertaining transitional phases of enlargement when it comes to countries that have yet to carry out the necessary political and economic reforms.
 

Positive stance towards Iceland – public opposition to Turkey

Jean-Marie Majerus
 
Luxembourg’s government has a positive attitude concerning the Icelandic application for EU membership. However, Iceland, as every other candidate state, has to pass the normal accession procedure. In fact, this will be much easier since Iceland, as a member of the Nordic Union, is already a member of the Schengen Information System and the European Economic Area. As Eurobarometer polls show, Luxembourg’s population has no problems admitting Icelanders, which might not only be explained by the presence of an Icelandic community in Luxembourg, but also because Icelandic Airways used Luxembourg’s Findel Airport as a hub for its continental European flights. The bad performance of some Icelandic banks in the most recent financial crisis did not really jeopardise this positive approach.
 

Looking east, looking north

Jurga Valančiūtė
 
Iceland’s accession is strongly supported and the Croatian accession negotiations should be finished as soon as possible
 
Lithuanian officials favour further EU enlargement and are convinced that bilateral disagreements should not influence the accession negotiations of the candidate countries – former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Vygaudas Usackas expressed his support for the European Commission’s estimation that Croatian accession negotiations can be finished in 2010.[1] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene recently said that the Croatian accession negotiations should be finished as soon as possible.[2]
 
Iceland was the first state to recognise Lithuania’s independence 20 years ago. Today Lithuania favours the integration of this state into the EU and, as Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said, “Lithuania strongly supports the aspiration of Iceland to become an EU member state and is willing to provide all the necessary support for Iceland‘s accession negotiations.”[3]
 

Inclusive attitude towards possible new members

Jacopo Leone
 
In the Italian debate, it is common opinion that Croatia and Macedonia are the best candidates to enter the EU in the next enlargement round. In this regard, comments are usually positive. Indeed, the national political establishment has traditionally supported the access of the Balkan countries to the EU. In the words of Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, Croatia and Macedonia have both overcome several obstacles, and it seems legitimate to imagine Zagreb in the EU in the course of 2011.[1] The same opinion is expressed by the research community, which noticed how the recent election of Ivo Josipović as Croatian President substantially increased the odds of the country joining the EU.[2]
 
The case of Macedonia appears more problematic. The Italian government is striving to push Brussels to open negotiations as soon as possible, leaving aside the thorny debate with Greece over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic.[3]
 
The forthcoming European membership of both Croatia and Macedonia are thus considered with favour by the Italian political parties and public opinion. As reported in the National Strategic Concept of the Ministry of Defense, the reason is manly geostrategic.[4] This approach is therefore likely to remain consistent in the near future, concerning the whole Balkan area.
 

Enlarging Ireland

Shane Fitzgerald
 
The government’s stated position is that “the accession process provides strong encouragement for political and economic reform and that future enlargement will help to promote stability, security and prosperity in Europe.”[1] While the accession of ten new member states in 2004 was greeted with great fanfare and celebration in Ireland, there is also a keen awareness that enlargement creates greater competition for foreign investment, which has been a key driver of Irish economic growth in recent years.[2] The fact that the newer member states are closer to the main EU markets and have lower labour costs has already damaged Irish interests as major multinationals shift their manufacturing operations from Ireland to Poland and elsewhere.[3] This awareness is somewhat balanced by the knowledge that Ireland benefited greatly from the labour and skills pool of the new member states during its recent boom and that further eastward expansion provides an opportunity to diversify its trade patterns in an enlarged European single market. But, in a climate of economic recession and renewed emigration, a degree of scepticism about the benefits of further enlargement is likely to remain.