Hungary is looking to the east

Krisztina Vida, Zsuzsa Ludvig and Tamás Szigetvári
Croatian and Icelandic accession is expected and strongly supported
In the official Hungarian view, any enlargement of the European Union must happen once a country complies with membership criteria and accession negotiations should advance according to the candidate’s performance. It seems that, after the recent 10+2 enlargement, the EU will not have “enlargement rounds” with several new member states anymore, but would rather continue the widening process by taking up newcomers one by one. The next new member state of the EU will undoubtedly be Croatia, whose accession treaty could be signed under the Hungarian Presidency enabling the country’s entry in 2012. Croatian membership will be very much welcomed by Hungary, being a direct neighbour. Actually, Hungary is highly interested in the European integration of the whole Western Balkan region in the foreseeable future. Hungary is convinced that the Croatian example of preparations can serve as a model for the other candidates and potential candidates in the Western Balkans.

Greek Initiative for an agenda 2014 for enlargement

A.D. Papagiannidis and Nikos Frangakis
Insofar as enlargement is concerned, the focus of attention in Greece lies in the efforts/expectations to bring around positive results for the Western Balkans by 2014 (“Agenda 2014”). This goal corresponds to intensive Greek efforts undertaken earlier on, which Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou (who is also Foreign Minister) publicly reiterated, i.a., in Athens in the course of a presentation at The Economist/Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) conference of 29 April 2010. Still, Serb Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, in this very same context, was clearly quite hesitant to hope for such a time-frame (while he stressed the pre-eminent importance of making the Serb economy and political context EU-compliant, rather than fight for accession). In May 2010, the Greek initiative for an “Agenda 2014” for the Western Balkans was mirrored by regional EU member states Bulgaria and Romania, at a meeting on the level of foreign ministers.
Within the same context of the Western Balkans, Greece hopes that the promise of EU accession would serve as a major political attraction so as to render Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) positions more adapted to Greek expectations in the never-ending name-cum-nationalism dispute of the two sides. In this matter, no positive evolution is to be noted.

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?

In favour of an open-door policy and an ambitious Eastern Partnership

Piret Ehin

The Estonian government continues to support further enlargement, while emphasising that the process is dependent on progress made by each candidate state. According to Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, “Estonia is a supporter of the European Union’s open-door policy so that nations that share common values and principles with our member states can be included in the Union.”[1] The government faces no significant domestic constraints in pursuing this policy: according to the latest Eurobarometer survey, conducted in autumn 2009, 57 percent of Estonian respondents supported enlargement, compared to the EU average of 46 percent.[2]

A neighbour in the EU

Julie Herschend Christoffersen

The prospect of Icelandic membership into the EU is widely welcomed in Denmark. This will shift the balance in the EU towards the north and hence Denmark. Denmark has even offered assistance to prepare for some of the negotiations Iceland will be having with the EU. The social democrat Member of European Parliament (MEP) Dan Jørgensen is welcoming Iceland into the EU, as only common solutions can bring a way out of the crisis about.[1]
Public debates in the media are sympathetic to the present economic plight of Iceland, but there is a general consensus that Iceland will have to live up to its responsibility and pay for its mistakes. The Icelandic “No” to Icesave II[2] was seen as a way of “voting No to reality”.[3] It is widely expected that Iceland will join the EU together with Croatia in spring 2012,[4] when Denmark is holding the Presidency of the Council.
Turning away from Europe?

The Czech Republic keeps an eye on Eastern Europe

Vít Beneš

Further EU enlargement has been a long-term priority of the Czech Republic and a steady ingredient of Czech European policy.[1] In the past years, Czech diplomacy invested a good deal of political capital in the enlargement cause, trying to repulse the critique of the “enlargement-sceptical” governments. The Czech political elites tacitly agree on the merits of the EU enlargement in general. On the other hand, disputes arise when individual countries are being discussed. In fact, consensus is limited to the support of the Balkan countries’ membership.[2] The negotiations with Croatia are unanimously supported by all political players. Even though the support for EU enlargement was not a topic of strong proclamations by the Czech political representation, Czech diplomacy continuously expressed its support.[3] Croatia’s case is also unproblematic due to the popularity of the country as a tourist destination among the Czech population.

Croatia will be next

Senada Šelo Šabić

Unanimous belief that Croatia will be the 28th EU member

The political elite express confidence that Croatia will be the next member state of the EU. Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor underlines that it is her belief, and that of her government, that Croatia will conclude negotiations this year and is first in line for the next round of enlargement.[1] This belief is reiterated by EU officials. Stefan Füle expects Croatia to be able to conclude negotiations in 2010, which means that the entry year could be 2012.[2] All parliamentary parties subscribe to this view. Vesna Pusić,[3] the President of the National Committee for Monitoring Accession Negotiations, expressed conviction that Croatia could, but was doubtful whether this government can conclude negotiations this year.[4]

A priority of low salience

Nathalie Brack

Although enlargement is one of the five priorities of the Belgian Presidency, it was not much discussed during the reporting period. During its Presidency, Belgium intends to be an “honest broker”, i.e., by trying to find a consensus on enlargement and by trying to accelerate the rhythm of domestic reforms within candidate countries in matters such as democracy and peace.[1]

In general, the position of Belgium is that each candidate should respect the EU criteria and all should be treated equitably on the basis of their own merits by the EU institutions. 

The next enlargement round is expected to be composed of Croatia and Iceland. The former is considered as having made good progress in terms of implementing the acquis communautaire and the latter already respects all the political criteria, but faces an economic crisis.[2]