Finalité Revisited

Shortly after the big round of EU enlargement in 2004, I took a look at future prospects for enlargement. At the time, I called prospective members, “largely a collection of the poor, ill-governed and recently-at-war.” Most of them are much less recently at war, many of them are better governed, and almost all of them are less poor, yet for all but a few prospects for EU accession seem to me more distant than in 2004.

What has happened?

Back then I noted

[T]he EU’s path to 39 members (40 if Serbia and Montenegro divorce), along with the first European Parliament elections that I expect their citizens to be able to vote in.

The Little Balkan Expansion (2009)
Bulgaria
Croatia
Romania

Two out of three’s not bad; Bulgarians and Romanians will indeed vote in 2009 to elect the next European Parliament. Croatia could possibly have come in with Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 (though it would have required record speed in the accession process), but the Croatian government in 2004–05 misjudged the EU’s seriousness about assisting the in arrest of an accused war criminal. The EU wasn’t kidding, and that nine months’ delay not only allowed other issues to crop up but took Croatia off of the fast track. Final negotiations on accession are expected to close in the second half of 2011. Ratification by the other members will also take its course, and Croats are likely to send MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg starting in 2014.

It gets murkier from here on out.

The Ottoman Expansion (2014)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Georgia
Macedonia
Serbia-Montenegro
Turkey

The European Union and its member states still do not know what to do about and with Turkey. By the time the Croats accede to the Union, Turkey will be marking half a century of associate membership in the EU and its predecessors. To be sure, Turkish accession challenges many aspects of the EU’s self-conception, and the practical hurdles are also significant. On the other hand, the Treaties of Rome were signed less than 12 years after total war between Germany and France. Surely those were even greater hurdles to overcome.
In 2006, Barroso said that Turkish accession would take until at least 2021, i.e., when he is 65 and most likely retired. I suspect that most of Europe’s leaders, even into my generation, cannot wrap their minds around a Turkey that is a full and equal partner in European integration. For this assessment, I’m kicking Turkey two more EP terms down the road, and I’m not optimistic about accession even then because I think the EU will still find it inconvenient. More’s the pity.
If the EU can take in Turkey, the difficulties of the smaller countries are put into perspective. If it can’t, they loom much larger than they ought. Four of the now-five countries need significant work on their state structures. Two are involved in separatist conflicts. One is embroiled in a silly name dispute. As part of a bigger round of enlargement, these difficulties would recede into the background of wider EU changes, but considering just the small countries on their own merits will mean that the problems get plenty of scrutiny. And while they may eventually become stronger candidates for that reason, the key word is eventually. Serbia, for example, has set accession by 2014 as a goal. No way. Serbia will be very fortunate to complete the accession process in time for 2019, by which time recognizing Kosovo’s independence will also be part of the package. The others are also looking at 2019 at best.

Last Call (2019)
Albania
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Moldova
Ukraine

This is a mixed bag. Since I was allowing 15 years from the time of initial writing, it was a bit harder to slip in the schedule. Nevertheless, some of these potential candidate have managed.
Albania’s Stability and Association Agreement (SAA) is likely to enter into force in 2011. EU acceptance of Albania’s formal application for accession will be the next step. The country appears to be making expected progress, building institutions and its economy from a very low level (by European standards). It is helped by EU engagement in the western Balkans, and by relative stability in the neighborhood. The Albanian government will not have an easy path, but eight more years of steady work may do the trick.
Armenia could, with sufficient policy determination, also join within the next eight years. At present, however, the government seems content with relations shaped by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). Until a cross-party consensus exists that Armenia should make a drive for membership, accession will remain a vague option, weighed against the Russian tendencies in parts of the country’s leadership. To say nothing of the unresolved territorial conflict on its eastern border. 2019 seems unlikely.
Since I wrote in 2004, Azerbaijan has shown itself an inheritable (for one generational transition, at least) authoritarian state. In the spring of 2011 the government is more concerned about contagion from the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa than about meeting EU standards. Without a change in the system, there are no prospects for accession; even with a change, at least a decade of hard work will be required. I thought that all three South Caucasus countries would join a wider EU; it is possible that Azerbaijan could elect to remain outside even if the other two join.
The government in Belarus rang in by 2011 by imprisoning hundreds of opposition members and severely beating candidates for president who lost in December 2010. The country’s authoritarian ruler is young enough (56 at this writing) that he could be in power for at least another 10 or 15 years. If that is the case, Belarus will stay on the outside looking in. EU accession date is the fall of Lukashenko, plus 12 years.
Moldova, at first blush, looks comparable to Armenia: no cross-party consensus, territorial conflict, general goodwill toward the EU, no hurry to undertake the real work. 2024 at the earliest.
Ukraine. Ah, Ukraine. Its entry would be almost as significant for the EU as Turkey’s, with 60 46 million inhabitants and an area roughly equivalent to France. But the failure of the Orange Revolution to live up to the hopes raised in 2004 has pushed Ukrainian accession from a long-term prospect to a long-odds proposition. Leaders in Western Europe didn’t know quite what to make of Ukrainian ambitions to join the EU either; as a result, the moment for forging consensus passed, and even the joint Polish-Ukrainian UEFA Championships in 2012 will do little to change that.

Three hardy perennials appeared in 2004 to be happy to grow outside the EU (though inside the European Economic Area): Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. All three had stayed out for reasons of domestic politics, although they participate in various elements of European integration. The financial crisis of 2008 changed the equation in Iceland’s internal politics, and the country is now negotiating accession. If the domestic consensus holds, it will likely join the Union in time for the 2014 Euro Parliament elections.

My current assessment of which EP elections will be the first a particular country’s citizens vote in.

2014
Croatia
Iceland

2019
Albania

2024
Armenia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Georgia
Macedonia
Moldova
Montenegro
Serbia

Not long after the EU chooses to let it in
Turkey

Ten years after they sort themselves out
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Ukraine

Six-plus years later, this assessment is considerably more pessimistic. Part of this is that EU matters always take longer than you think, even if you believe you have factored in the fact that EU matters always take longer than you think. Part of it is backsliding in countries that already faced daunting paths to accession. And part of it is the continued inability of EU leaders to come to terms with Turkey.

This is the path to EU-41. What do you think?

16 thoughts on “Finalité Revisited

  1. “with 60 million inhabitants”

    46 actually. And going down.

    I really think the peoples of the EU should be asked beforehand though. Who voted for Azerbaijan anyway?

  2. Why is the accession of Russia considered unthinkable?

    If the EU is to bring together all the nations of Europe, then Russia needs (eventually) to be in.

    If Russia can be excluded permanently, then so can others at Europe’s eastern frontier, where Europe blends into Asia.

  3. There’s some discussion/concern from Armenia’s government about “contagion from the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa” as well, though it seems to be only reported by Armenian news outlets at the moment …

  4. Thanks, Luke, that’s interesting. I’ve kept Armenia in a different mental category because the government there doesn’t do things like arrest bloggers on trumped-up hooliganism charges. But it’s instructive to remember the events around the present administration’s election; and that they’re concerned is interesting.

    Strategist, I think the short answer is that Russia’s leaders see their country’s peers in Europe as either the EU itself, or at a stretch some of the EU’s largest member states. I have a very hard time believing that any Russian leadership would both accept the acquis and allow that Malta or Luxembourg could exercise a veto over Russia’s preferred policy choice. But maybe I am missing something?

    Ath., thanks. Fixed.

  5. An EU that includes Russia would almost certainly be an EU without any veto for every country issues left.

    Now Romania/Bulgaria didnt work out as planned at all. The irony is, Turkeys growing fast, doing better than those two. Regardless, no ones going to be willing to pay for 70 million That is Turkeys real problem, the christian stuff could be overcome. I dont get how that fast expansion to poor countries got through in the first place. Unholy alliance between idealists that wanted all in and the dump the EU down to a free trade zone fraction maybe. The appetite for those fast expensions is over now, which is good for my preferences which is fast further integration of the existing members. Probably even necesary to kick out one old developed member, the UK to get any progress there. Croatia will get in soon. Iceland very soon if they want. Maybe Norway and Switzerland grow a brain at some point and joing soon. The other, that will take time. Maybe the ex yugoslavian get in early because they are sufficient small and close enough, plus some scare they might start kill each other again otherwise.

  6. What about Kosovo?

    And do you really think Armenia, Georgia & Moldova will have sorted out their territorial disputes by 2024? I can’t imagine the EU letting them in without having done so (even though they did in the past with Cyrpus)

  7. Two questions:

    1. Why do you think Georgia should be in a different bag than Armenia

    2. The bigger question. What makes you think ALL these countries would WANT to join the EU (and the Eurozone as a consequence) given a chance? Things have changed on the EU side as well since you wrote the original piece.

  8. 1: Russia and Turkey.
    I don’t think any of these countries will be part of the EU, simply because they are too big for the leading EU nations to swallow. Rather, I think they will be closely connected to the EU through more or less equal partnership agreements and possibly military ties. Turkey will understand this in time, and grow quite comfortably in their role as the leading regional power in the Middle East. Russia will eventually choose the EU and Turkey over China as their primary allies – alhtough keeping tight ties to China.

    2: The Kaukasus.
    I believe the Kaukasus will stabilize by 2024. If nothing else, only because Russia and Turkey will prefer stability in the region to anything else, and go to certain lengths to settle issues there. The EU will most likely be a part of that process, ref #1.

    3: Ex-Yugoslavia.
    While 2014 certainly is soon, I think these countries may do better than you expect. I think most EU foreign relation officials believes that Serbia is key to stability in the region, and hence would like to see Serbia inside the union. Russia may also support this, perhaps preferring Serbia as a stable ally inside the EU. The crux here, of course, if Kosovo. I don’t thin the EU see Kosovo as something suitable as EU territory, and prefer to keep it outside. Hence, the Serbians need to swallow that pill. In fact, bot the EU, Russia, and Serbia may, eventually, prefer that Serbians swallow that pill. Croatia is pretty much a done deal – expect for increasing issues with orgnanized crime, nationalism, and unwillingness to deal with war criminals. These issues are not unique to region, of course, but still need to be setteld far more succesfully than they are now. Regarding Bosnia, I don’t know what is best, or where its going. So much for that, and I doubt it will be a member anytime soon. Same for Macedonia. Montenegro, too, is a mess. However, it’s small enough for the EU to embrace it sooner rather than later.

    4: Ukraine, Belarus.
    I have no idea when, or if, these countries would access the EU. Ukraine may even split in two, and Belarus may finally merge with Russia.

    5: Albania.
    I think Albania is pretty much in the same category as Bosnia and Macedonia.

  9. I was born and grew up in ex Yugoslavia, or today Bosnia/Sarajevo. Nowadays I am watching what is going on in Libya, and reflections of the war coming trough, the same destructive forces that destroy Yugoslavia are in full swing in Libya. But I digress.

    While I do not live over there, I wish the Bosnia never join to notorious EU, as far I know the mood in neither Croatia nor Serbia aren’t better. People are sick and tired of yours social and political engineering, of your envoys, NGOs and what not. Let alone impoverishment and pillage that you have brought with your “Structural Adjustment Policy” in once viable country.

    I have no idea what is good for the Turks, but they must be fool if they keep insisting on joining and giving up on its sovereignty. So, do not flatter yourself that majority of population is eager to join, they are disillusioned long ago of your “democracy”. Only the oligarchy and corrupt elite that you brought to power is.

  10. It would be more interesting to do a timetable of which countries are going to leave the eurozone, and even possible the EU.

  11. The EU accession has been a promise not fulfilled for too long. But most importantly in the last decade it has become the main cover of an extensively corrupt political elite. Understandably, many are starting to get tired of it. At least in Albania that is. Comparisons of EU trash talk to the propaganda during the communist era and the 200k bunkers built to withhold an enemy that never came are becoming popular by the day. With Germany having lost most of its European vigour/vision and slow but steady rising opposition against the EU in the aforementioned countries I expect the process to take even longer if not to stall completely.

  12. “I suspect that most of Europe’s leaders, even into my generation, cannot wrap their minds around a Turkey that is a full and equal partner in European integration. ”

    Why exactly should Turkey be a full and equal partner in European integration?
    Or do you think that if say Japan were occupying 40% of Hawaii, and making imperial demands anyone in the US would be even talking to Japan about accession?

  13. None of these countries should ever be allowed in. In fact, it would have been better to block membership of the 12 newest EU nations.

  14. Croatia and Iceland in the next 24 months (too soon in both cases, but there it is).

    Nobody else before 2020.

    Most likely to join in the following decade:

    Macedonia (if the name dispute resolves — there’s a window of opportunity for this next year with the ICJ decision): small, not grotesquely corrupt or authoritarian.

    Montenegro: tiny. (Also very corrupt and backwards, but on a timescale of a decade or more, that’s fixable.)

    That leaves Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo, but all of these have big, big problems. Serbia and Kosovo almost certainly will not settle their dispute by 2020, and the EU can’t really admit one without the other. Bosnia may not survive, and is currently not capable of sustained reform. Albania is majority Muslim, middlin’ corrupt, has a dramatically incompetent political class, and suffers from a deeply negative image. I would be astonished to see any of these joining before the early 2020s, and would not be at all surprised to see them lingering in the anteroom for many, many years.

    Moldova — nobody wants Moldova, but I suspect they’ll eventually make it in. Not for a generation, though.

    Ukraine, Belarus — not for at least a generation, and possibly never. The current administration in Kiev is making systemic changes that are going to make Ukraine’s government and economy very inconsistent with acceptable European norms for many years to come. Belarus is a one-party state and a dictatorship; transition to anything resembling liberal democracy would take at least a decade and probably more, and it’s not likely to start in this decade.

    Turkey — who the hell knows, but possibly never.

    Georgia — nobody but the Georgians thinks that Georgia will ever join the EU. The Georgians want it really really hard, but that’s not going to help.

    Armenia — probably never, and certainly not within 20 years.

    Azerbaijan — probably never.

    Doug M.

  15. The introduction of the Euro and the credit bubble that followed marked the climax of the EU.
    The path forward is downward.
    If anything, the EU has become a form of autocratic super state with unelected elites making absurd laws and getting paid huge tax free amounts of money to themselves.
    Unemployment rate in Spain is above 20%; youth unemployment rate between 25 and 35 is above 45% unemployed. Same in Greece, Portugal, and Ireland are to follow.
    EU is a total failure and many members will regret having joined in and ceded their economic sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats like Trichet and others.

    As for the east europeans, having lived under the comunist system, they must be the first to recognise that « plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose ». The Czech president was the first to denounce publically the unelected elite of Brussels. However, most of them will continue to profit as they did during the communist times as in many countries the same communist politicians are in power today. I don’t think EU will get larger, not only because of lack of political will, but mainly because of growing inefficiencies, corruption and lack of democracy.
    Russia joining the EU is a joke. Rather the EU would be joining such a vast land if it were to happen.
    Turkey having come to terms with the fact that EU is a Christian club of arrogant bureaucrats will continue to expand economically and become the empire it once was at which stage it will no longer look to EU for inspiration. It will rather be the main source of inspiration for many other Muslim countries around and will profit immensely from her newfound position.
    Balkan states will be peaceful as long as the American presence in Kosovo is undiminished. Otherwise the unresolved Albanian question will come to haunt them back again.
    All others will be just as irrelevant as they have been in 2000 years history.

  16. Pingback: A Little More Finalité | afoe | A Fistful of Euros | European Opinion

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