Monday 20 April 2009

European Union: Reform before enlargement

A little while ago this blog argued in EU: Enlargement fatigue? (1 April 2009) that the Lisbon Treaty may be an improvement compared to the Treaty of Nice, but it does not create an effective or democratic union.

In my opinion, the main fault of the French and German governments is not that they put a brake on EU expansion, but that they do not envision reform beyond the limited Lisbon Treaty.


Busek interview

EurActiv’s 17 April 2009 interview with Erhard Busek illustrates the problems: Busek: Western Balkans should join EU as a block.

Busek finds that it is now difficult with 27 members to come to decisions: with 32 or more it will be even more difficult.

If the countries of the Western Balkans accede, their number of votes in the Council and the number of MEPs will be much greater than their proportion of the EU population.

Busek names this as a problem. But he sees that in this way, pressure is created for changing the systems in the European Union. Personally he is convinced that the current voting weight repartition, as well as the lack of qualified majority vote in most of the situations, is the real background of these hesitations. It has nothing to do with region, because it's completely clear for all member states that all the Western Balkan countries should become members of the EU.


The Busek interview underlines the need for effective decision making and it at least touches upon one important aspect of democratic and fair representation, namely with regard to population numbers.

Ralf Grahn


  1. What do you think about the idea of a two-speed Europe, Ralf? With some countries reforming faster than others?

    Would it be possible? Or a complete mess?

  2. Josef,

    The question is huge, but a few brief points:

    1. Is there a need for focused European action in world affairs and important (new) policy areas, like economic policy, energy etc? Yes.

    2. Is real progress possible by unanimous agreement and ratifications by 27 or more member states? Practically impossible.

    3. Is there a solution? Progress by a core group of nations, building an effective and democratic European Union.

    The laggards would stay in the old union, or negotiate an alternative relationship with the new EU.

    4. Is this 'two speed'? Not exactly, since various speeds have been observed for a long time.

  3. At least one of my professors has been suggesting this option.

    A variety of different unions (defence, economics, energy, foreign policy, etc.) which member-states can sign up to. Integration occurs at different speeds, rather than all at once.

    I'm starting to think this approach might have a point.

  4. Josef,

    Besides the opt-outs, which represent the lane for laggards, there are at least three part options:

    1) intergovernmental cooperation outside the EU framework (e.g. the beginnings of Schengen, PrĂ¼m);

    2) enhanced cooperation;

    3) permanent structured cooperation (defence).

    If I understood Joschka Fischer right, his option was an avant-guard at least initially based on intergovernmental cooperation with the Eurozone at its centre.

    It might be difficult, but I would prefer a 'new union' as a general solution, with democratic structures, with the other options reserved for niche issues.


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