November 6, 2008: Yesterday European Union
commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn admonished France,
Germany and Luxembourg not to block EU expansion by denying
membership to new members. Rehn’s comments in Brussels
accompanied the annual report on progress made by Turkey and
seven Balkans states in implementing reform measures considered
deemed necessary for membership by the EU.
Rehn reported that more progress was needed by all
candidates. Croatia is the closest to completing requirements
for membership and could complete them sometime next year.
Serbia may receive official candidate status next year, opening
the door for formal negotiations on membership – if it
demonstrates satisfactorily that it is doing everything in its
power to find war criminals from the 1990s Balkans war.
However, it seems that expansion is on hold for as long as
the treaty of Lisbon is not ratified by all current EU members.
France, Germany and Luxembourg have declared repeatedly that
they will only support the addition of new members if the
treaty is ratified. The Lisbon treaty is supposed to streamline
the EU's decision-making process, eliminating the single vote
veto right currently in effect. With the single vote veto, EU
negogiations often become late-night bargaining sessions. The
EU is already unwieldy with its 27 members and would be even
more so if new members were added.
Following the rejection of the treaty by Irish voters
earlier this year the outcome of the ratification process is
clouded. In addition, legal challenges to the Lisbon treaty in
the Czech Republic and Poland have further complicated
"I hope this won't be used as an argument to delay the
admission process for countries like Croatia that have made
good progress," Rehn said in answering a question about the
position of the three governments. He added, though, that the
successful completion of negotiations does not mean immediate
admission to the EU. Rehn emphasized that this factor could
mean that the Lisbon treaty could be ratified after all prior
to any new members being admitted to the European Union.
Turkey – another country seeking EU membership –
made only limited progress this year in implementing necessary
reforms. According to the European Commission, the Turkish
government has failed so far to present any coordinated plan
for those political and constitutional reforms deemed
necessary. There was also only limited progress in reforming
Turkey's government administration. In addition, the country's
armed forces continue to have "considerable political
Experts believe that it will be at least ten years before
Turkey becomes a member of the EU. However, the decisive factor
in determining whether Turkey will achieve its goal may not be
its domestic reforms, but the outcome of the Lisbon treaty.