STATE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
Since its’ beginnings, the EU has expanded by adding new members—the latest round being the Central and Eastern European (CEE) nations. However, has the EU reached the limits of this expansion? Address this question by referring to the role of the EU Neighbourhood policy and the experiences of CEE nations including the Ukraine, Turkey and North Africa.
Expansion in the EU by the addition of new member states has in many ways reached its limits due to various factors that harbor further expansion in the same method. The cultural identity of Europe – a matter that has long been on debate and which encompasses the political, cultural and economic ideas and interests of the current member states -has been brought into question. The notion of Europe being founded on Christian principles is being reconsidered as well as the religion being the dominant religion in all member states. This debate has been sparked by the question surrounding Turkey’s accession into full membership in the EU. As the EU advances from the notion of a common market to a conglomerate of states that are politically and culturally integrated, expansion begins to face much greater challenges. This is especially true when the target country has larger political, economic and socio-cultural differences with the current EU member states.
The current EU legal framework which is based on population size differences among the member states will see Turkey gain a majority vote in the Council of Ministers as well as the European Parliament. Turkey would displace Germany and other large member states. The socio-economic cohesion of the EU would be tested since the country performs much lower economically than the other states. The negotiations being undertaken by Turkey appear to be much more difficult, therefore, than those undertaken by the 12 states that acceded most recently. This is because of the increasing opposition to the idea by the European public. France, for example, introduced a constitutional amendment that would mean that a referendum would be held in regard to the accession of any country that represents 5% of the EU population. This was directly aimed at Turkey’s accession bid but the amendment was later removed.
The question of whether or not Turkey can be considered a European country has been the centre of the debate on whether she can be compatible or suitable for full membership. This question will likely arise with the accession bid of any other country considering the cultural differences so far with the countries neighbouring the EU. In order to allow for expansion without enlargement, the EU adopted a new policy known as the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This policy would allow interested countries to participate in the EU through bilateral trade without accession to full membership or into the EU integration zones. The ENP was driven by the need for the EU to place its economic and cultural interests first as well as its political stability. Countries in the Maghreb, for example, members of the EU, have less stable political climates and large cultural differences that may threaten the stability of the EU as full member states.
The ENP would encourage economic and democratic reforms in those counties in order for them to gain access to the EU market thereby ensuring that the neighbouring states to the EU are stable. Instability in the neighbouring regions due to the Arab spring brought about an immigration crisis that the EU would like to avoid. In North Africa, the EU has established relationships with its former colonies by allowing them to join in the ENP. The measures that are taken by the countries to accede involve anti-corruption measures and democratic reforms, most of which entrench stability. In Tunisia. The EU enacted an action plan to support economic development and transition into a democratic state.
In the case of Ukraine, the promise for membership is constrained by her political and economic environments as well as Ukraine-Russian relations. Moreover, internal pressures within the EU, motivated by the same factors have been an impediment to Ukraine’s integration into the EU. Internally, a majority of Ukrainians support integration into the EU. However, like in the other cases, opposition to integration comes from within the EU thereby making further expansion even more difficult. The EU has, therefore, reached the limits of full membership expansion but the introduction of the European Neighbourhood Policy can enable expansion without necessarily growing larger.
Is the EU becoming the Europe of the Regions or the Europe of Emerging Nations? Discuss this question with respect to how regionalist/ nationalist movements are both influenced by and impact EU policy and how they are evolving in Scotland and Catalonia.
Regions can be regarded as inter-state spaces that have been conceptualized and that cross state boundaries. As social, economic and political and economic integration take root in Europe, internal borders lose importance and begin to diminish. This has gradually led to the weakening of the traditional nation-states. Despite this, however, the dream of establishing a State of one’s own is gaining appeal and support all over Europe from Spain to the UK. The desire for autonomy has been propelled by the European economic crisis more so especially in the regions that wield the most economic power. These separatist movements are motivated by placing pressure on the central government. The motivation behind the separatist movements is either the pursuit of independent statehood or seeking more autonomous rights. Catalonia in Spain and Scotland in the United Kingdom are seeking independent statehood, but both will face great hurdles in the pursuit.
The motivation behind separatism stems from common regional features. Such include a commonly spoken language, the desire to promote a distinct identity and they legitimize the pursuit of self-determination. In Scotland, a central pillar of identity that is commonly invoked is the separate civil society. In Catalonia, it is motivated by the desire to preserve their cultural and language identity. In order to promote their claims of legitimacy, the movements frequently claim a shared common history. The fact that these movements can legally raise a legitimate quest for autonomy further pushes Europe towards a Europe of regions. Complaints about regional interest being ignored by the national government as well as rising discontent with the status quo have fuelled the push for autonomy.
Regions can be considered as areas of a common social identity. This identity can be categorized as either integrative or autonomist. In Catalonia, an autonomist movement, an unofficial referendum was held to gain independence and was passed by a vast majority only to be declared unconstitutional by the Spanish courts. The legality, however, of such movements is based on a contradiction between the right to self-determination of nations and the territorial integrity if states. Both these doctrines are part of the UN charter despite having different interpretations. Since any successful separatist movement results in the creation of a new European state, the EU has an important role to play. The EU bolsters the economic prospects of separatist regions in the case that they gain EU membership. Scotland serves as a good example of a legal, referendum-backed separatist movement. It, however, illustrates how difficult and treacherous it is to hold such a referendum. Therefore, while such movements may be gaining popularity across Europe, it still remains a difficult task for any European region to secede.
While the push for rights to autonomy and federalist structures is becoming more and more prevalent, whipping up support for independence among the majority still remains difficult. This makes the creation of new EU states that much more difficult. However, the movements for independence are not about to vanish. Failure by the central governments to adequately mitigate the concerns and reach an amicable middle ground will only see the issue become more and more volatile. As regional boundaries are drawn by the nation-states, they must balance political and social forces which influence patterns of inclusion and exclusion.
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