Difficult economic situation in EU not to weaken efforts of candidate countries for entrance

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 3 / Trend , E.Ostapenko / The difficult financial situation of the European Union, caused by the global economic crisis, will not affect the aspiration of the candidate countries for European integration. However, the EU itself will not hurry for the new enlargement.

"Crisis is temporary, but the long-term magnetic force of the EU will remain in any case," Dmitri Kochenov, Dr of European Right, said.  
A conclusion that Eastern Europe does not need a general plan to combat global crisis was made by the EU leaders on Sunday in Brussels at the extraordinary summit, dedicated to economic problems. There was declined the proposal to provide €190 billion to the Eastern European countries, which most seriously suffered from the crisis, through establishment of special "program on rescuing and stabilization". The participants of the meeting came to the opinion that each country has its difficulties, and to solve them with united methods would be ineffective.
The refusal to provide financial support to the economically weak EU countries does not decrease its attractiveness for the candidate countries, experts say.
The European Union has never been attractive because of its financial aid, Kochenov said, adding that the EU is attractive because it gives an access to markets of Western Europe.
"No one intends to give money to the countries of East Europe, but simultaneously no one will establish barriers in the way of the Eastern European commodities, which can freely be sold in Western Europe," Kochenov, docent of the University of Groningen, told Trend in a telephone conversation from Groningen, adding that this is very important for the future growth in the economy of the Eastern European countries". 

In Iceland, which also strongly suffered as a result of crisis, membership to the EU remains on the agenda sharply, since it considers the EU as the panel against the future crises like the present one, Kochenov said.

One of the leading experts in EU integration, Thomas Klau, thinks that in spite of the economic instability, which this crisis creates, the radical parties will strengthen.  

"Some of them might be nationalistic radical parties and take a hostile attitude to the EU membership," Klau, Editorial Director and Head of the Paris Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Trend in a telephone conversation from Paris. 
However, Klau does not expect that the Balkan countries, for which the prospects of further enlargement are absolutely vital, themselves decide individually not to want to join the EU. 

The Balkan EU candidate countries are Croatia, Macedonia (already begun processes of entrance) and Serbia.

The aspirations for joining the EU do not mean that the Union itself is prepared for new enlargement in the near future.

"Politically and economically, the EU is not ready for new enlargements," Eliane Mosse, senior research fellow on European Enlargement at French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), told Trend in a telephone conversation.  

Klau thinks that the EU is conscious about the necessity to keep the membership perspectives for the Balkan countries, Ukraine and Turkey open, when the countries do meet economic and political criteria to work into the EU. 

The talks on Turkey's entrance to the EU started in 2005, but the experts consider that the country will be able to become full-right member of the EU during 10 to 15 years. The key barriers on Turkey's way to the EU are the territorial disputes with the Greek Cyprus.  

The talks on a new agreement between Ukraine and EU commenced in 2007. During the Ukraine-EU summit on Sep. 9, 2008, it acquired the title - agreement of association. The sides plan to finish the negotiations on the new agreement by the end of 2009. 

"Although the current crisis makes it more difficult, I do not see any significant indication that the EU as a whole will pull back from that commitment, even if some politicians split for delaying," Klau said.  

EU must have strong economic and political position before considering the issue of further enlargement, Klau said. 

The strongest wave of enlargement to the EU was brought in 2004 by Hungary, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Estonia, i.e., almost the entire former "Communist bloc", except Cyprus and Malta. Three more years later, in 2007, two more former people democracies - Bulgaria and Romania - joined the EU. The total population of the EU grew almost to 500 million people, now the bloc produces more than 30 percent of the worldwide GDP and controls 17 percent of entire world trade.

EU's reaching strong economic and political position depends on how the EU finds solutions for the current crisis.  

As all the crisis, the EU has had to meet before, and especially the big one, the EU will come out of this crisis changed, Klau said, adding that it will come out either stronger and more integrated, or it will be weaker. 

The speed of European integration only increased, and European integration became more successful after crises, said Kochenov. According to him, the history of European integration showed that after each crisis the EU became more united.

It depends on countries realizing that in this crisis they must for instance do more in terms of the solidarity for the weaker member states that the EU treaties force them to do legally, Klau said.

"If they have political courage and wisdom to do that, then the EU will be much stronger, Klau added. If they don't, the EU will be weaker".  

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