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Enlargement: Is the European Commission doing its work properly?

We have known for a long time that the enlargement policy is ailing.

Without direction nor captain at the helm it seems to continue impassively on its way in spite of the crisis, the EU's difficulties and the scepticism of European citizens.

Just as the Commission is about to publish its strategy and report on the state of the candidate countries on 9th November it is legitimate for us to ask whether it is doing its work correctly according to three criteria - which amongst others are - results, contribution to the Union and methods.

The enlargement policy has broken down - its results are disappointing.

Of course it has enabled the funding of the candidate countries (1.55 billion in 2010, 652 million of which went to Turkey) for the modernisation of their economies and society.

But we have to admit that the process is in stalemate. Macedonia for example was declared an official candidate in 2005 but neogotiations still haven't started. Turkey does not satisfy the political demands set by the Union and its own commitments to acknowledge the Republic of Cyprus; we might be permitted to ask whether Bosnia, just like Serbia have really made any progress since the Dayton Agreements.

Of course the Union can boast at having helped stabilise its immediate neighbourhood and this very fact deserves to be considered objectively but it is never done.

Euro-scepticism is spreading rapidly within the Member States and also amongst the candidate countries.

Within Europe citizens are increasingly against any further enlargement and the Commission behaves "as if nothing is wrong" providing arguments to counter those who challenge the undemocratic nature of the European institutions. In the candidate countries people increasingly wonder what the Union really wants and question the erratic way it is run especially when the enlargement procedure starts with an obligatory form filling task that entails 1,500 questions. And so the methods used by the Commission really do now have to be looked at closely - not because the assessment work is not done well - but because it is totally bureaucratic, almost mechanical and leads to incomprehensible blunders in the field. The fight against corruption, which is totally necessary, is measured according to judgements that are often countered by the facts - for example Croatia - whose membership application was believed to be almost settled - is now experiencing a domestic crisis because of this issue.

The Union's security issues are distinctly lacking from the process.  But 37% of Afghan heroin that is imported illegally into Europe passes throught the Balkans - illegal immigrants also and to boot the Union is obliged to send special agents to the Greek-Turkish border to control the work which is not assumed correctly by Turkey.

Serbia for example is being encouraged whilst it is one of the Balkan countries which deserves it least because of the lack of courage on the part of its leaders, who say they are European, whilst Albania, which has made phenomenal progress and whose efforts have been lauded by the World Bank, is rejected probably because the image it enjoys in Brussels is over ten years out of date. Making distinctions between neighbouring States is a most dangerous exercise indeed! It has to be totally beyond reproach and this is not the case.  And is this really the aim of the exercise? 

And also isn't the essential part of the enlargement issue in the Western Balkans about ensuring that real regional cooperation has replaced the hatred and the memory of the most recent fratricidal wars? .... and also that the possible accession by these countries should strengthen the Union in a the world, likewise security on its borders?

But this should be the concern of the political and cultural order whilst the Commission officially contents itself with an assessment of figures and laws viewed mainly according to the systematic principle of conditionality. On every issue it hides behind the Member States and the Council to whom it delivers a yearly "package" which politically is difficult not to adopt - and which above all must absolutely not be opened. What a gift!

In fact it is the entire enlargement policy which needs reviewing gauged against a really political strategy, bearing politically strong messages that target the governments of these candidate countries who often use membership for domestic political ends .... and the Member States must take their share of responsibility in this.

Should we continue enlargement because the process alone has its advantages? Or should the final goal of integrating new States really dominate? This task is given to the Council of Foreign Ministers which does not assume it. The Commission acts as if the enlargement policy should continue whatever the cost, without ever modifying its attitude and or considering growing discontent. It gives the impression that it is not fulfilling its mission of embodying general European interest beyond the antagonisms of the moment but rather that it is taking on lofty ideals that are of course irrefutable.

The democratic control of the enlargement process has to be organised now. The European Parliament and the national parliaments must address this.