10 Country Expansion Of European Union
December 15, 2002 2:56 PM   Subscribe

My Union Is Bigger Than Your Union: On May 1 2004 the European Union will become 25-country strong and the most powerful political and economic force in the world. And? [More inside.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (28 comments total)
There are plenty of worries on both sides - the (European) inside and the (non-European) outside. Still, suddenly it feels better to be inside. And growing. Bigger and, above all, more interesting every day.

I mean: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Malta and Cyprus. All in one day. With lovely, enormous Turkey (unfairly, imho) hanging in the wings.

Though it's far too early to judge whether it will work out or not, it's clear that, at least geopolitically, nothing will ever be the same again. This news article from a Thai newspaper is refreshingly honest and cut-to-the-chase.

Have the big players inside (Germany, France, Italy and Spain), less than completely inside (the U.K.); half-inside (Turkey); half-outside (the U.S., Canada, Russia) and almost completely outside (India, China, the rest of the world) yet figured out whether the EU expansion will be good for them?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:59 PM on December 15, 2002

Had you posted this earlier, we wouldn't have been yelled at by for not talking about it yesterday
posted by riffola at 3:10 PM on December 15, 2002

grr I make mistakes too often these days. Sorry.
posted by riffola at 3:10 PM on December 15, 2002

Oops, sorry! The link (a very interesting article, btw) doesn't seem to be working either. Thanks for pointing out the dp, riff. On the plus side, it's good to have a whole thread to read about something I wanted to consult MetaFilter about.

*rampant self-pity all the same*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:18 PM on December 15, 2002

I have to say that I feel that the EU is not just about economic association any more. It's also a group of states that share an attitude to human rights and social responsibility different to, and equally valid as, North American, Asian or Islamic values.

As a man who values his human rights, do I want to admit a country that is still struggling with basic human rights: "Torture is still widespread. In August, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Turkish justice minister detailing 31 reports of torture involving 55 individuals since February 2002. In early October, the justice minister presented a draft torture-curbing law ensuring that all detainees get access to a lawyer from the first moment of detention." Progress is undoubtedly being made: when we can say it is established, we can "let 'em in."
I hope that will be soon: many of my friends holiday there - I would love to do so myself.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:47 PM on December 15, 2002

eh, it won't work.
posted by delmoi at 4:03 PM on December 15, 2002

...and the most powerful political and economic force in the world.

That remains to be seen I think. Political and economic power have very little to do with population size. (If it did, China and India would be far and away the "most powerful political and economic" forces in the world).

If the past gives any indication of the future, it is likely that the EU will become the largest bureaucracy in the world - but that won't necessarily translate into anything else.
posted by MidasMulligan at 4:22 PM on December 15, 2002

I think the scariest thing about the rampant expansion of the E.U. is that they are bringing in so many distinct cultures into one large body. I find it hard to believe that the principles of democracy will work well in such a large and diverse political body. Still i really hope it does, i wish the U.S. would take similar steps on the western hemisphere. If we spent some of our vast defense budget on better infrastructure, including roads, waterways, and telecommunications, one would expect economic growth similar to that experienced in the 60's when similar infrastructure expansion projects were undertaken in the continental U.S. However, I doubt it will ever happen, at least not with our defense budget. I would think though that an act of good will is just as good at defending your country as building the latest generation of tactile nuclear bomber, and a good deal cheaper in the long run.
posted by sourbrew at 4:32 PM on December 15, 2002

Having followed the EU news for a while now, what strikes me is how very similar what they are doing today is with the issues of early America. Shall we have a President? How shall our parliament or legislature be organized? One house or two? And what of the balance of "federal" and national (state) power?
Historically, it's almost comic.
I've even seen suggestions of "federalists" vs. "anti-federalists", and even what I could call efforts to create "articles of confederation."
I'm on pins and needles to see if they set up a bicameral system to balance the large, powerful nations with the small, less populous nations. And a dozen other reflections from the past.

I wonder if you could substitute the contentious "immigration" issue for the "slavery" issue?
posted by kablam at 4:37 PM on December 15, 2002

Damn link. Sorry. Here it is: Monday's editorial of Thailand's The Nation:

EDITORIAL: No joy in watching the EU expand

Published on Dec 16, 2002

Is it supposed to be a happy occasion as the European Union's membership expands from 15 to 25? From the point of view of Bangkok, at least, we can only regard the enlargement with a sense of anxiety. Not that the event is not a cheerful one in its political dimension. The EU will become a union with the largest population on the planet after China and India. Anything pursuant of sustained peace in Europe is much welcomed after the tragic lesson of the two world wars which erupted in Europe during the last century.

But rather, one must look warily at the economic dimension of an enlarged EU.

As a bloc of nations, it has a greater population that the Nafta grouping of Canada, Mexico and the United States. As a fact of life, trading preferences within EU, and Nafta as well, are greater for those inside than those outside.

The EU is now exporting its trade preferences and protectionism to 10 more countries of central Europe and the Mediterranean. Exports from Thailand and other developing countries to Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia will face the stringent and protectionist regulations of the EU as of May 2004.

Another worry is that controversial EU farm subsidies will now be bestowed on the additional 10 economies - making it more difficult to unlock these privileges in both the medium and longer runs. Thus, despite the Doha round of trade negotiations, the plight of poorer nations because of the EU farm subsidies will continue.

Does the future look totally grim? We have to wait for next week as the European Commission is expected to reveal the proposals it will make to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on liberalisation of the politically sensitive farm sector.

The move follows an olive branch on cuts in tariffs on farm and manufactured goods put forth recently by the United States.

A proposal from European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy is likely to include specific articles on how far to reduce export subsidies and domestic supports, as well as to reiterate general support for further farm-trade liberalisation.

But the cuts are likely to be well short of the expectation of developing countries, which have witnessed how the EU has side-stepped the issue over past decades.

If the EU does not move, then another rich nation with heavy farm subsidies, Japan, will also not take any initiatives.

WTO states have set March next year as the deadline for agreeing to a schedule setting out specific targets for liberalising farm trade, to be finally negotiated before the Doha talks are completed by January 1, 2005.

Time is running out. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should take this issue to Paris when he goes there. France is not only a major nation he has not visited, but has also acted with self-interest to keep EU farm subsidies intact.

No, there is no cause for celebration as the EU expands to 25 protectionist nations.

The Nation
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:37 PM on December 15, 2002

the most powerful political and economic force in the world

Yes, perhaps economically. But how is this political power measured? I think the USA leverages its vast military system, together with a strong economy, to be the top political power almost every time.
posted by Icestorm at 4:52 PM on December 15, 2002

Biggest possible outside problem I see is Russia. They have always felt isolated and surrounded by enemies, and used their 'republics' and the former Warsaw pact countries as buffers. Now, they have no allies, have lost the Warsaw pact and all those "stans" as buffers; The former republics are cozying up to the US and China, and their former friends are all joining the EU and Nato. It's always been their greatest fear and is one reason they are not about to lose any more territory in Chechnia or influence in places like Iraq and Iran. Russia will have to be brought into the EU and NATO before their old paranoia becomes reactionary.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:59 PM on December 15, 2002

IT doesn't always seem good to be on the inside, not if the expansion shifts you outwards. An article in the sunday herald about the award of the European Championship final to Austria, worries that Scotland may have lost out because it would be too far away for all the new member states ...

"It may be significant indeed that the decision was taken the day before the EU agreed to let eastern Europe into its club, and the week before the Scottish fishing industry faced closure because alliances in other parts of Europe have ganged up to protect their vested interests.

The centre of gravity in Europe is shifting decisively east, to where new blocs and alliances are already forming. Despite all the cheap flights taking Scots to continental Europe, Scotland looks distant when viewed from there. Those in the bid team reckon the most likely reason for the alliance was that we appear to fans as an expensively far-off destination"
posted by bonaldi at 5:27 PM on December 15, 2002

The European Union faces two major struggles at the moment that require attention for any expansion to succeed:

1) Massive, extensive overhaul of the EU governmental structure - including decision making and revisions of their democratic processes.

2) Work to develop a sense of "Europeanness" and loyalty to the EU. As it stands, current member states are more or less oblivious to what the EU does, outside of create an extra layer of bureaucracy.

As I view these two issues to be fundamental roadblocks at the moment, it baffles me to why the EU wishes to expand so quickly. From my perspective, the rampant expansion will only serve to create more bureaucracy and conflict within the Union that is not yet solidified enough.

The latest round of expansion will most certainly lead to massive immigration issues, as I've mentioned in earlier posts. I simply do not believe the EU is ready to absorb the mountain of difficulties that it will incur with its current management/governmental structure.
posted by tgrundke at 6:32 PM on December 15, 2002

With lovely, enormous Turkey (unfairly, imho) hanging in the wings.

Sorry Miguel, Turkey deserves nothing, until they admit to the Armenian genocide*. After that, maybe they can work on their amazing list of continued human-rights abuses, before they are even considered.

*distant 2nd place goes to Japan, which has a few denials that it needs to start waking up to.
posted by dgaicun at 7:43 PM on December 15, 2002

*distant 2nd place goes to Japan, which has a few denials that it needs to start waking up to.

Someone needs to learn their Asian history better before stating that Japan is second to anyone when it comes to atrocities committed.
posted by Baesen at 8:17 PM on December 15, 2002

I was referring only to nations that are part of the first world, which should involve a greater amount of accountability (which is why Turkey shouldn't be allowed "in the club", so to speak). Japan has, what really seem to be, the most outrageous accountability problems of any first world country (Let the chomskyites now step forward).
posted by dgaicun at 9:17 PM on December 15, 2002

The latest round of expansion will most certainly lead to massive immigration issues, as I've mentioned in earlier posts.

I doubt it. First, real integration doesn't begin in 2004. There will first be a long "transition stage," which will prevent Slavic hordes from entering Western Europe and taking away precious janitorial jobs for at least seven years. (The time varies from country to country, but the average is around seven. Either way, I won't be making happy meals at your local McDonald's until 2011 at the earliest.)

Second, as you mentioned in your other posts, there were similar fears about Spain, Portugal and Greece joining the EU, and they all proved unfounded. Back then, everyone was terribly frightened that Spaniards would rush into Germany at their earliest possible convenience, steal all the toilet-cleaning jobs, and cause Europe's biggest economy to implode. And it didn't happen. Well, the economy did implode, but a great flood of immigration didn't cause it.

But, I agree with you that there is a problem. But the problem is that Europeans are irrationally obsessed with immigrantion. In Australia, 25% of the population is foreign-born, in the United States (the world's supersized-ultra-hyper-can't-touch-this superpower) the rate is around 10%, and in Europe it's a measly 5%. And yet European elections revolve around the issue. It's absurd.

In short, I don't think it will be an issue. The more important question now is: Do you want fries with that?
posted by Ljubljana at 10:22 PM on December 15, 2002

I said my bit in the previous thread, but I think this Economist graphic is more ...illustrative:

posted by costas at 6:49 AM on December 16, 2002

Just a guess, but did Luxembourg have some sort of role in the development this graph?
posted by dgaicun at 7:06 AM on December 16, 2002

Just to clarify the previous post for those to lazy to find the original thread: I am for Turkey's entry, but only if she can enter on her own strengths, not on US pressure.

The graph above is from the (premium section of) the Economist which has repeatedly editorialized for Turkey's entry (but somehow doesn't see the irony of this graph in their Financial Indices section). In the above graph, Turkey doesn't show because PWC ranked her at zero (0).
posted by costas at 8:00 AM on December 16, 2002

It's a fricken free trade zone, with a big social policy budget, and no military. This is only significant because of Europe's history of parochialism and wars. Yeah.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2002

That remains to be seen I think. Political and economic power have very little to do with population size. (If it did, China and India would be far and away the "most powerful political and economic" forces in the world).

If you're talking Freemarket Theory, it has everything to do with pop size, Midas. Be patient, come back in 50 years or so and see if India and China aren't the dominant nationsin the world market.

Meanwhile, I think Europa has almost no chance of ever thinking and moving as a single entity beyond commerce, and fraternity is europe's missing ingredient.

Meanwhile, Latin America's asshole is still way too sore for them to consider a similar arrangement with the North Americans any time soon.

(But Al Qaida should put a big enough damper on the global economy in years too come such as to render this as no more than academic)
posted by BentPenguin at 9:12 AM on December 16, 2002

Meanwhile, I think Europa has almost no chance of ever thinking and moving as a single entity beyond commerce, and fraternity is europe's missing ingredient.

Why bother? Who *wants* to be part of a continental superstate? Would a mass European culture really be an improvement over a hundred different groups with shared histories and values? What a step toward universal boredom European homogeneity would be.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:09 AM on December 16, 2002

Ljubljana - I agree with you to an extent that the Northern fears were overblown. However, I still believe that the situation and peoples are fundamentally different with Eastern Europe than they are with Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The peoples of S.P.G by nature are far less inclined to move - part of the reason for the massive East --> West immigration into Spain at the moment is that the Spanish government and businesses cannot get people to move from other regions job-rich regions. The void is well filled by those more willing to migrate from the East.

Spain and Italy have both demonstrated this issue very clearly for more than a decade. Italy has a very high Croatian and Slovenian population in the North as it is difficult to get people from Southern Italy to migrate there.

I don't think the immigration issue should be overbearing, but it must be managed in order to avoid a severe backlash that could put the EU into a braking period
posted by tgrundke at 2:29 PM on December 16, 2002

dgaicun, agreed. Baesan, the Armenian Holocaust has been one of the great whitewashes of 20th Century history, which Turkey still denies ever happened. Japan may have committed worse atrocities, but the genocide of a million-plus people of one ethnic group is not something to be scoffed at.

See Atom Egoyan's film Ararat for one painful armenian perspective.

Funk the economics- Turkey needs to acknowledge its shadow before it can grow up and be a responsible neighbor and EU citizen.
posted by elphTeq at 4:09 PM on December 16, 2002

elphTeq: I'm not scoffing at it. I'm saying that putting it a "distant second" is ludicrous.

Please read what was written before responding.
posted by Baesen at 6:45 PM on December 16, 2002

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