The enlargement of the European Union

European Union enlargement to include either Croatia or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (select one)

The enlargement of the European Union is viewed as a way of promoting the values that stand at the basis of the creation of the European Union throughout Europe. The enlargement of the organization has always been a controversial issue, as there are pro and con opinions about the necessity of the enlargement and about the future members of the Union. As EU starts analyzing the accession applications from different European countries, controversies arose. This has been the case with every wave of accession that took place so far, the most recent being in 2007 with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria.

The idea of a European organization created to ensure security and stability in Europe appeared after the Second World War, as nations were searching to create a cooperation organization that would provide them security and thus urge the economic recovery of the countries involved in the war. The beginning of the European Union in the form that we know today was established through the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, in 1952. The members were: Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, France, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. In 1957, the European Economic Community was created, expanding the single market created by the ECSC to all domains and also through the Rome Treaty, the European Atomic Energy Community was established. In 1967, these two communities were brought together, creating the European Community. The European Community was enlarged in 1973, with the accession of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark. In 1981 Greece became a member, followed in 1986 by Spain and Portugal.

The European Union was established through the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. The European Community is now part of the European Union, and in its extended form represents the first pillar of the EU. The EU is based on three pillars: the European Community, a common foreign and security policy, and common internal security measures (Archick, Morelli, 2006).

The first members to join the European Union were Austria, Finland and Sweden, which joined the Union in 1995. The next wave of accession was on May 1, 2004, when ten new members were added to the European Union. This has been so far the largest wave of accession and considering the limited number of countries that qualify as European geographically speaking, it will probably be the only wave that included so many countries. The nations that joined the organization, enlarging its membership to 25 were: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The next wave was in 2007, with the joining of Romania and Bulgaria. Currently, there are 27 members of the European Union and there are serious debates whether there should be another enlargement.

Croatia and Turkey began negotiations of accession with the European Union in 2005, but they were not yet been given a date of a possible accession. There are discussions of whether the EU will take a pause in accepting new members until 2010 or whether countries such as Croatia will be able to join the EU sooner if they manage to comply with the demands of the aquis communitaire.

Enlargement is viewed by the European Union as an opportunity to help other countries reach a high economic development level and as an opportunity to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout Europe. The requirements to enter the Union are not easy to comply with, but they do set the basis for a future development of the new members. However, the compliance with the aquis communitaire is not enough to guarantee a country’s accession to the EU. The organization must be prepared to accept new members and so it can delay the entering of a nation. The question of whether the EU is ready or not to accept new members has proved to be controversial in the past accession waves and it continues to be a reason of controversy when speaking of the accession of Croatia into the EU.

If officially the European Union remains open to any nation that meets the requirements set out in the 35 chapters of the aquis communitaire, the future enlargement of the Union is greatly debated. The Nice Treaty authorized the Union to accept up to 27 members but no more than that and EU officials preset the Nice Treaty as a reason to stop the enlargement. Otherwise, the treaty would have to be amended or another treaty would have to be ratified in order to permit further enlargement (Archick, Morelli, 2006). Voices that are against further expansion argue that the Nice Treaty was designed in this way particularly to protect the efficiency of the EU and a larger EU would mean a more vulnerable EU. There are increasing discussions about a pause in the enlargement of the European Union until 2010. This pause means that the countries that are currently negotiating with the European Union will not be able to enter the organization in the next years irrespective of their progress in the domains set out in the aquis communitaire.

Croatia is one of the countries that are currently negotiating with the European Union its accession. Croatia applied for EU membership in 2003 and started negotiations with the EU in October 2004. Croatia’s situation is somehow more delicate as it is part of the former Yugoslavia, but it made extraordinary progress after the dismantle of Yugoslavia. After Slovenia, which is part of the EU since 2004, Croatia proved to make the greatest progress from the countries formerly part of Yugoslavia. However, there are voices arguing that Croatia became a candidate country only after extraditing several of its citizens to the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia and after improving its cooperation with the Tribunal.

Public opinion in the European Union is also reluctant to further EU enlargement and although the population of the EU is not consulted when speaking of further enlargement, the public opinion can not be overlooked by their governments. All 27 EU members must agree to admit other members and there are nations that do not agree with any other enlargement. This situation places Croatia’s admission to the EU to uncertainty, at least for now. Besides, the country has yet to accomplish developments in several fields in order to meet the requirements for admission. However, the requirements could be met sooner than 2010 and so the main obstacle in the path of Croatia’s joining of the EU is the opposition met in the European Union towards further enlargement.

In the light of the success of the enlargement wave of the countries in Central and East Europe, the enlargement of the Union in the Balkans could represent a great step forward for this region, known for its backwardness comparing to other western European countries. Besides, the admission into the EU of Romania and Bulgaria shows that the Union could accept Croatia, as this country is in some sectors more developed that the last two countries to enter the EU. Solely based on the requirements for admission, Croatia has already accomplished important developments in several fields and is currently trying to accomplish all other requirements.

From all the countries in former Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia proved to be the most developed ones in economic, social, and democratic terms. Slovenia is already part of the EU and solely for this comparison, there should be no obstacle in the admission of Croatia when it will meet all the requirements. From the remaining Balkan countries, Croatia seems to be the most likely to enter the EU soon and this accession should be made because the European Union can not ignore the Balkans. This is an European region devastated by conflict that needs to regain its strength and that needs to continue to develop and reach the developing level of its neighboring countries, all members of the EU. Ignoring the Balkans and pausing the enlargement of the EU will only leave a hole in the map of the European Union, a hole that can be threatening to the stability of the organization. Helping the Balkans develop will only benefit the EU. However, helping the Balkans reach the same level of development as the countries of the EU represents great costs for the Union, costs that some members are not willing to pay. So far, only Croatia has proved to move towards the European Union in terms of development and efforts made foe development and this is why Croatia is by now the only pertinent candidate for EU accession. The enlargement of the EU in the Balkans is challenging and this is why so far only Croatia and Slovenia managed to meet the requirements of the European Union.

Opinion polls conducted in member countries of the European Union show that there is a constant decrease of the support of the public opinion for further enlargement of the EU. The reasons for this opposition are mainly of economic and social reasoning, as people fear that further expansion will mean even greater migration and that they will have to compete with even more people for jobs. These reasons and the opposition met in the public opinion must be taken into consideration by the governments of each members state and so there is a great impact over the admission of new members, such as Croatia.

The date of the accession of Croatia in the European Union seems to provide great debate, not only because the country is not considered ready to join the Union, but most importantly because the EU is divided by conflicting opinions regarding the necessity or the benefit of further enlargement. The debate about Croatia’s admission is not centered on the accomplishments of the country, but on the necessity of the EU to be even further enlarged.

Admitting Croatia into the European Union can represent a very important step forward for this country and an example for other Balkan nations that development can be achieved and that EU admission is desirable and worth working for. Considering the great economic boost that the 2004 wave countries have met after entering the Union, it is believed that this will also happen for Croatia or any other country joining the Union. Greater economic development and commitment to EU values will provide greater stability in the region and this is a very important part of the desires of the European Union.

Croatia has declared that is target for accession is 2009 (Avery, Batt, 2007) as it desires to meet all the EU requirement by that date. This action is doable and Croatia could accomplish great progress by that time. However, as mentioned before, the greatest obstacle is represented by the EU desire to enlarge itself again in 2009, only two years after accepting Romania and Bulgaria. One reason besides public disagreement of further enlargement is that of the economic costs that the EU would face for accepting Croatia as a member, or any other member for this matter. EU members, especially older members, are reluctant in assuming the cost of yet another enlargement.

Despite the controversy and the arguments surrounding the future enlargement of the EU, Croatia will probably become a member of the organization. The only question is when. The European Union is going through a crisis after its failure to adopt a common constitution and any further enlargement requires institutional reform. Besides, Croatia has yet to accomplish some of the requirements to enter the EU, many in important sectors such as justice. The further enlargement of the European Union requires extensive funding, but the budget attributed in the 2007-2014 period was not focused enough on Balkan countries. This means that there are not enough funds to sustain the enlargement of the Union in this region until 2014 when the budget will be approved. So, in order for Croatia to join the European Union until 2009, extra funding would be required.

The reports of whether Croatia will join the EU by 2010 are contradictory, as there are both pro and con opinions. However, it is more likely that Croatia will not join the EU this decade, especially after Angela Merker’s declaration that there should be a pause in the expansion of the Union until 2010. Despite the efforts made by Croatia, its accession in the Union is not certain to happen by 2010 considering the opposition wave of the EU officials.

Bibliography (APA):

Accession of Croatia to the European Union, available at;

Archick, K., V.L. Morelli, “European Union enlargement,” CRS Report for Congress, updated October 25, 2006, available at;

Avery, G., and J. Batt, “Balkans in Europe: why, when and how?,” Policy Brief, March 2007, available at;

Enlargement strategy and main challenges,” Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, Brussels, November 2007, available at;

Kazmierkiewicz, P., EU enlargement to the Western Balkans from the Polish perspective, available at;

Phinnemore, D., the changing dynamics of EU enlargement, April 2005, available at

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