European Affairs

Letter to the Editor: EU Enlargement Must Be Accelerated     Print Email

I write to express my concern over the delay in the integration of Central, Eastern and Southern European countries into the European Union, and the growing risks it poses for Transatlantic growth and policy cooperation.

It was with great interest that I read the articles on EU enlargement in the last issue of European Affairs. I found the comments of EU officials on the current state of enlargement informative and interesting. It was, however, also interesting to note that concerns over the political, economic, and social implications of EU enlargement for the current 15 member states serve as the over-riding factor in the enlargement process.

At the same time, institutional concerns relative to decision-making and the democratic principles upon which the European institutions and policy cooperation are built are contributing to continued delays.

In addition to concerns about institutional capacity and a possible political backlash in the member states, European Commission officials argue that EU enlargement must be slowed down to prevent the destabilization of internal markets, and to preserve economic stability in the EU. I believe, however, that enlargement must be accelerated to ensure European economic growth and stability.

Considering the importance of enlargement for Transatlantic cooperation and global market governance, I would like to comment on this issue from the point of view of Transatlantic corporate and industry interests.

Increasingly, U.S. and EU government officials are expressing concerns over the implications of delayed EU enlargement for European economic and political stability. There is growing pressure on EU institutions and member countries to move more rapidly to take in new members.

But while national security and social conflict over jobs and resources are currently at the heart of the debate over enlargement, it is important that regional and global corporate and industry interests also become a central factor.

At the start of the 21st century, the success of Transatlantic policy cooperation, regional market integration and global governance depends directly on more, not less, interdependence among advanced market economies and emerging and developing nations.

At the same time, rising income levels and standards of living for citizens and communities can only be achieved through effective government and business partnerships, technological innovation, workforce education and training for information-based economies, regulatory harmonization, multilateral policy cooperation, and effective national governance through interlocking systems of national, regional, and international law.

There are legitimate and growing concerns over economic stagnation in many European economies, which is resulting in increasing labor migration, cross-border operations by crime syndicates and mounting pressure on the social welfare systems of EU member countries. If, however, EU corporations and industries are to remain vibrant, profitable, and globally competitive, the rapid economic integration of the entire European region is a strategic imperative. In this regard, the growth and evolution of the EU economy and its market system depend increasingly on developing dynamic and interdependent Europe-wide markets.

The increasing financial cost of assistance to Central and Eastern European markets and civil societies is the direct result of incomplete and inadequate integration with the EU and the Group of Seven nations. Moreover, the viability of democratic institutions, civil society, and companies in many Central and Eastern European, as well as Mediterranean, applicant countries increasingly depends on accelerated convergence with EU and Transatlantic industry and regulatory standards.

Seen in this context, more rapid institutional cooperation is needed to ensure the convergence of regulatory and economic policies across Europe. Such a process of integration through EU enlargement would reduce the risk of regional market instability due to asymmetrical markets, market failure and constraints on Europe's industrial evolution.

Likewise, the removal of internal borders and barriers to the movement of capital and labor requires a pan-European framework for business strategy and public policy cooperation in order to prevent the collapse of civil society and market systems in Central and Eastern Europe and in Mediterranean countries.

In conclusion, Transatlantic business and industry leaders are increasingly concerned about the delayed integration of Eastern and Central European nations into the EU. The concern is based largely on the need for governments and civil societies in these applicant nations to integrate rapidly into the emerging system of international markets, regulatory and industry standards as a means of increasing their standards of living.

The EU is rapidly evolving as a world power on a par and in partnership with the United States. That means that the consolidation and development of regional markets is becoming a strategic imperative for EU-based corporations and industries.

Dr. Reba A. Carruth
The George Washington University
Washington, DC


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number II, Issue number I in the Winter of 2001.

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