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What sort of EU will Bulgaria join in 2007?


Lunchtime Lecture, UK Embassy Sofia, 11 November 2002
Gisela Stuart MP

1. I was asked to talk to you today on what sort of EU Bulgaria will join in 2007. I must begin by clarifying that I do not have any crystal ball gazing skills that would allow me to see into the future. Nor can I make any promises or firm predictions. What I can do is, on the basis of my own experience as a member of the Praesidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe, try to project what might come out of the Convention and the sort of Europe this might provide in the future. Of course another reservation I should make is that what comes out of the Convention also has to be taken forward at the next Intergovernmental Conference in 2004, and discussed by the heads of state and government. So we do not have the final say. Nevertheless, I think I can give you some food for discussion, which is what I was asked to do.

2. The first important assertion to make is that the EU in 2007 will be very much a Union of nation states. I think there is a clear understanding in the minds of most Convention members that the state is the fundamental building block of the EU; that national identities are not in danger of being watered down or replaced and that for any further integration to be successful in the future, what we already have must be much more firmly embedded in the national democratic systems of the member states.

3. This is something that I personally believe in very strongly. Recently, one of my roles at the Convention has been to chair the working group on the role of national parliaments in the EU. My main objective has been to find mechanisms and procedures that would help tie our national democratic legislatures firmly into the processes of European decision making, without making them co-legislators.

4. Some members of the Convention are nervous that the sort of recommendations that my group has made will lead to a much more intergovernmental Europe. I will not go into these recommendations in detail, however can do so during questions if you wish. I reject these criticisms of creating a more intergovernmental Europe. I believe that strengthening the role of national parliaments, and thus enhancing the direct link to the citizens and complementing the role of the European Parliament, will give us a much stronger basis for taking Europe further, but in a more democratically accountable manner.

5. As I noted in my speech yesterday, many of the recommendations made by this group are aimed at solving the problems of the current system and encouraging better practices at the national level. By experiencing the very demanding accession process, your parliament is already more than aware of the degree to which national politics is affected by European policy and that domestic policy is actually rather 'European'. In the country I represent, this division between domestic and European is still very firm in peoples minds, which does not help them or the citizens engage with Europe in a positive way. By 2007, any teething problems experience by the first wave enlargement candidates will have been solved, and your parliaments, never having settled into the 'bad old way' of doing things, will be able to start from a clean slate and build on the experience of others to enter the game as active and constructive players at the European level.

6. Institutionally, I think that the EU of 2007 will look considerably different from the EU we have today. I believe we will have a constitutional treaty, which will probably give the EU a legal personality. It will very likely be an integrated treaty, without the current pillar structure. Instead there will be a streamlined, more clearly defined set of legislative procedures and legal instruments, which themselves will clearly divide intergovernmental policies from community policies.

7. The catchword for much of the Convention is 'simplification'. This cannot of course come at the expense of efficiency and democracy, but there is nevertheless huge scope for simplifying what we have at the moment. I do not believe there will be any new legislative bodies. Another very clear desire of the Convention members is to avoid setting up new institutions.

8. There are other issues still to be decided at the Convention, which I cannot make predictions on and there are many institutional questions that will be discussed in the New Year. For example the number of Commissioners each member state will have. Would the bigger states give up a Commissioner? Would the smaller states be happy with a rotating system, which would mean that sometimes they have one and sometimes they do not? These discussions have still to take place, and I am sure they will be extremely lively ones.

9. The distribution of votes in the Council of Ministers has been set for the first wave of enlargement, and with a population the size of Bulgaria's, if it were to join in 2007, Bulgaria would fall in to the category of a Sweden or an Austria, which will have 10 votes each from January 2005, according to the Presidency Conclusions from the Brussels summit at the end of October.

10. Personally I would like to see considerable reform of the European Council, with an elected President to replace the current rotating system, which I believe undermines efficiency, as there is no follow-up on priorities that are reset every six months by a different country. If, by producing a constitutional treaty, we are hoping to settle constitutional debates within the EU for at least 20-30 years, to provide a more stable existence, then the entity we create has to give itself a more strategic vision for the future. I believe a President of the Council would be able to do this.

11. In the sphere of economics, I would expect a more integrated EU in 2007. The European Commission should be strengthened in order to have the authority to ensure the completion of the Single Market. So far only about 80% of this has been achieved. By 2007, an EU of very likely 25 member states will have been functioning for between 2 and 3 years, with almost half a billion people. By adding over 100 million consumers to the Single Market, the medium to long term gains will I believe outweigh the costs for all of us. I also hope that by 2007 we will have gone some way to improving the situation for many countries, members and candidates, that are experiencing extremely high unemployment rates. And I do believe that enlarging and consolidating the Single Market will help to address this.

12. I congratulate you in meeting the Copenhagen criteria of a 'functioning market economy' this year for the first time, which proves the extra progress made over the last year on macroeconomic performance, structural and financial sector reforms. Again in Copenhagen in a few weeks time, at the next European Council, it is likely that an updated roadmap and enhanced pre-accession strategy for Bulgaria will be one of the issues on the agenda. These will provide useful benchmarks, to help you to continue with the extraordinary progress you have already made and achieve those outstanding objectives. Provisionally closing 22 Chapters in such a short space of time is a clear indication of the political will and effort being invested in your accession to the EU.

13. Then there is also the Euro - by 2007 will the UK be in the Eurozone? Well this is certainly an area I do not intend to cast predictions on. However it is clear that many of the candidate states are keen to join the Eurozone as soon as possible after accession. For many, meeting the Maastricht convergence criteria will take some time. However in 2007, for some, after 2-3 years inside the EU, membership of the Eurozone may already be on the horizon.

14. The final area I would like to mention is that of external relations and defence. Clearly this is a crucial area of the EU's development in the current climate of international affairs. The EU is continuing with its objective of creating a European Security and Defence Policy and by 2007 I would hope that enough political will and the matching financial commitments have been found to ensure that the Rapid Reaction Force becomes a reality, and an effective one, not just on paper. Building these capabilities are fundamental to carrying out the Petersberg tasks effectively.

15. The parallel issue here is of course NATO. By 2007, Bulgarian membership of NATO is likely - and I wish you well at the Prague Summit in a few days time. NATO is set to reform itself to cope with the new challenges and threats and the new geopolitical setting. The EU must ensure that it can develop with NATO and that the two dovetail and complement each other.

16. In the run up to 2007, Bulgaria may well find itself as a non-EU NATO member, as Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey are at the moment, amongst others. As stated in the Annex to the Brussels Presidency Conclusions, there will be full consultation of the non-EU European Allies on the full range of security, defence and crisis management issues. I believe this is a crucial part not only of maintaining a working relationship between the EU and NATO, but also of preparing Bulgaria for EU membership.

17. When Bulgaria joins the EU, whenever this takes place, and we do support your efforts to achieve the goal in 2007, it will be in a very important position, geopolitically speaking. By 2007 Turkey will not be an EU member. Whether it will have opened accession negotiations remains to be seen - there are very varying opinions on this currently. But whatever the status of Turkey, when Bulgaria joins it will become an external EU border country and therefore crucial in the maintenance of some form of neighbourhood policy to those countries it borders that are not in the EU.

18. In his provisional draft constitutional treaty, Giscard d'Estaing has included under Title IX a section on 'The Union and its immediate environment', which he suggests could contain provisions defining 'a privileged relationship between the Union and its neighbouring States, in the event of a decision on the creation of such a relationship'.

19. Neighbourhood policy is an effective means of ensuring we do not end up with a 'Fortress Europe'. As a member state, Germany has been playing the role of a 'bridge' to its non-EU neighbours very successfully over the last 10 years, and Poland is actively positioning itself to become an important regional player in encouraging its western neighbours to develop policies towards countries such as the Ukraine and Belarus, policies that will ultimately ensure regional stability. Through its involvement in the 'Weimar Triangle' with France and Germany, Poland has already acted as an interlocutor with Ukraine on behalf of all three countries. Bulgaria could be well suited to playing such a role in the future as a regional 'power' whose goal it is to take the lead in stabilising the regional environment, not only towards Turkey but also to the rest of south-eastern Europe and the Balkans.

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