Meanwhile, that whole free movement of labor thing

So when the 10 new EU members joined in 2004, the old EU-15 came up with a clunky compromise about the free movement of labor: each old member could decide for itself, but they’d have to publicly review that decision after two years (2006) and then again in three more years (2009) and then after seven years, in 2011, they’d have to drop all restrictions and let the Poles and Hungarians in. (I say 10 new members, but really this only applied to 8, because Cyprus and Malta are so tiny that nobody cared to put restrictions on them. So, this was really about the “EU-8” — Poland and Hungary, Czechs and Slovaks, Slovenia and the three Baltic states.)

The old members came up with a bewildering array of responses, ranging from total liberalism (Britain, Ireland, Finland) to sharp restrictions (Belgium, Austria).

Then three years later, in April 2007, Romania and Bulgaria joined. The EU adopted the same two-three-seven rule for these new members as well.

The existing members — which now included the 10 new members — came up with a different bewildering array of responses. Some members that had been very liberal to the EU-8 closed their doors to the new two, while some that had been conservative reconsidered.

So we’re now at the point where you need a chart. Fortunately, our friends at the Beeb have prepared one! Here it is.

What’s interesting is that this is a snapshot, a complicated picture that’s on its way to becoming much simpler. May 2011 is less than three years away. And when all the EU-8 have complete freedom of movement, it’s unlikely that many countries will keep restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians.

But here’s a thought: will the EU keep the same rules for newer members? One might think not… after all, Croatia and Macedonia are pretty dinky. But waiting beyond them lies Turkey. So, almost certainly the seven-year rule will be implied on the new Balkan members as well, even if most members will promptly wave them in. In fact, all of these countries already have arrangements with the EU allowing some movement of labor.

(The interesting exception: Kosovo. In fact, movement of labor out of Kosovo has been getting harder, not easier. But that’s a story for another post.)

As for the effects of all this… well, that’s the big question, isn’t it. Watch this space.

Dutch to veto Serbia’s SAA?

Apparently the Dutch have said they won’t approve Serbia’s Stability and Association agreement unless Serbia comes up with suspected war criminal Ratko Mladic.

This comes from the excellent B92 site:

Holland will not let Serbia sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) until Ratko Mladić is transferred to the Hague [said] Dutch European Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans… in an interview published by Belgium daily Le Soir today.

“We have been saying, and I repeated this clearly, that Serbia has to cooperate fully with the Hague Tribunal. This means that Mladić has to be transferred to the Hague Tribunal prison,” said Timmermans.

By the way, I went to the Le Soir site to find the interview. You know what? Everything but the front page is pay-per-view. Cripes. What is this, 2004? That just seems so very Belgian somehow…

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Luxembourg compromise.

Something is happening. Although not in Berlin, apparently. The SPD’s steering committe has not (yet officially) accepted what appeared to be an offer from Mr Schröder to pursue coalition strategies that would not include him. Since the SPD’s chairman, Franz Müntefering, explained later that the party’s goal were still a government led by Gerhard Scröder as Chancellor, Mr Schröder’s statement could also be interpreted as tactical move aimed at forcing Angela Merkel to do the same, hoping that the CDU’s more intense internal rivalry might cause her to have to live up to her proposal. Either way, much ado about nothing in Germany today – Meanwhile, in Luxembourg…
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And speaking of Eurovision

Just a quick update on Croatia’s EU candidacy.

Eight countries have signed a letter to British PM Tony Blair supporting Croatia’s membership. The letter was presented to Blair — who currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, and will until January 1 — in the recent confence at Newport, in Wales.

The signing countries were Austria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
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Slowed or stalled?

Taking a break from the German elections, I ran across this recent article over at Radio Free Europe. Short version: EU accession for the Western Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania) is stalling.

All of these five states would like to be part of the EU, but — with the partial exception of Croatia — none of them are particularly welcome. The EU appears to be going through a period of “accession fatigue” in general. The “No” votes in France and the Netherlands, though not directed specifically at these countries, have definitely created an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty.

Furthermore, many of the countries of the Western Balkans are — there’s no way to be polite about this — unpopular. A recent Eurobarometer poll shows that more people oppose membership for Bosnia (43%) than support it. Only 40% of Europeans support EU membership for Serbia, while 44% oppose it. And for Albania, those numbers are a depressing 36% for, 50% against.

Obviously this could change over time. Again with the exception of Croatia, all of these countries are at least a decade away from membership. So opinions might shift. Still, the poll numbers suggest that there’s not much popular support within the EU for even starting the process.

Looking at the potential members one by one, below the flip.
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A curious trend in the Balkans

2000-2004: Under the rule of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Romania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Romania’s GDP increases by an average of nearly 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Romania joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

December 2004: voters reject Nastase and PSD, voting in the opposition in a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the National Movement Simeon II (NDST) and Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburgotski, Bulgaria enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Bulgaria’s GDP increases by an average of around 5% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Bulgaria joins NATO and is accepted for EU accession in 2007.

June 2005: Voters reject Saxecoburgotski and NDST, voting in the opposition, which now appears likely to form a weak coalition government.

2001-2005: Under the rule of the Socialist Party and Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Albania enjoys four consecutive years of rapid economic growth. Albania’s GDP increases by an average of about 6% per year; for the first time since the end of Communism, the country has four years without a recession. Meanwhile, Albania is accepted into the Partnership for Peace and moves from being an impoverished semi-pariah to a serious candidate for EU accession sometime in the next decade.

July 2005: Voters reject Nano and the Socialists, returning to former President Sali Berisha, out of office since 1997. Berisha will form a coalition government with several minor parties.

What’s going on here?
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Turkish Accession Talks And The French Vote

People in Turkey are getting nervous. If French voters reject the Consitution Treaty later this month, it will be for a whole string of reasons, none of which necessarily are related to any of the others. Some will vote against the treaty because it is perceived as removing sovereignty too much, others because they feel it leaves too much room for national sovereignty (the ‘social dumping’ debate). But possibly ‘no’ voters hold one view in common: they don’t like the idea of Turkey joining the EU.

Now many of the consequences of a ‘no’ vote – if ‘no’ vote there be – are unforseeable. But one distinct possibility would be that among the items contained in the ‘plan B’ rescue package would be a proposal to review the state of play with the Turkey accession process. This possibility is exercising the mind of Morgan Stanley’s Serhan Cevic no end. Mine to. Full declaration: I support Turkey’s *eventual* membership of the EU.
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Agenda 2020.

New Europe?
Late Thursday night, the European Council approved, as widely expected, the Commission’s recommendation to open membership negotiations with Turkey, largely without imposing additional conditions to be met prior to the beginning of the talks on October 3, 2005. “The time to start negotiations with Turkey has come,” Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso said. Council President, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, will discuss the EU proposals Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, over breakfast on Friday.
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Turkey recommended for EU accession talks

The European Commission has recommended that accession talks for Turkey should begin, but hasn’t laid out any dates for the process:

Commission officials are reporting on the progress Turkey has already made, along with Bulgaria and Romania.

The final decision on Turkey rests with the leaders of all 25 EU member states in December – with accession years off.

The Commission’s recommendation is a milestone in an increasingly impassioned debate.

The decision was reached by a “large consensus” among commissioners, one EU official said, but no vote was taken.

There was also no recommended date to start negotiations with Turkey.

More from The Scotsman/PA, EU Business, Reuters and EU Observer.

Update: The full text of Romano Prodi’s speech can be found here and I’ve copied it below, so you can click on the ‘continue reading’ link to see it as the English HTML link on the site doesn’t seem to be working (pdf and doc links are).
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Opening the Sublime Porte just a crack

The European Commission won’t release its report on the possibility of opening accesion talks with Turkey until 6 October. But after expansion commissioner G?nter Verheugen’s comments yesterday, the report will not be much of a surprise. ‘There are’, said Verheugen, ‘no further barriers‘ to beginning talks.

(All the links to outside sources in this post, incidentally, are to German-language sites. At the moment there’s nothing about this on the FAZ English-language site, but you might check there later in the day if you can’t read German.)

In the comments to my recent post on the NPD’s electoral gains in Brandenburg, Otto suggests that the German CDU step up its resistance to a possible Turkish entry. Apparently the Union is paying attention to Otto, for party chief Angela Merkel was prompt to announce that she will seek allies elsewhere in Europe to keep the Turks draussen vor der T?r. And taking up most of the front page of the print edition of today’s Die Welt — the reliably right-wing sister paper to the Bild-Zeitung, but unlike Bild intended for those who can read words of more than one syllable — are ‘Ten Reasons Why Turkey Should Not Be Allowed to Join’.

Strangely enough my first reaction to this all-out onslaught by the Union was one of compassion and concern. ‘Bloss keine Panik, Leute!’, I wanted to say, giving their well-coiffed heads a reassuring pat. For you see, Turkey is not about to join the EU after all. All that the Commission has done (and indeed, officially it hasn’t even done that yet) is to say it’s all right to start talking with the Turks about the possibility of an eventual accession. In those talks Europe will, among other things, negotiate with the Turks the conditions and timeline for a possible entry. There is no guarantee that Turkey will accept (or fulfil) the EU’s conditions. And accession, if it comes at all, will not be for many years.
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