The future of the EU with or without enlargement

There are elections coming up in both the United Kingdom and Turkey on May 7 and June 7, respectively.

Issues differ, of course, but surprisingly one major topic as hot as it seems everywhere else only features prominently on one nation’s political agenda: the European Union. In a nutshell, shall we stay in or opt out, if evaluated from London. But what about Turkey, one might ask?

Let me be more frank than usual: I thought the proud people of the United Kingdom had realized that being a member state of a much wider union is highly beneficial. Without it, Great Britain would not have been able to benefit from enormous EU funds nor would London have built its at times seemingly independent global financial marketplace role. In this context there are recent worrying calls to reconsider that country’s role within the EU, not from afar but surprisingly from within.

At the same time and being equally candid, I am never entirely certain about the reasons positive public sentiment in the equally proud Republic of Turkey for joining the bloc moves up and down the scale that reads quotsupport for full EU membership.quot One would expect that if seen from a confirmed candidate country’s public opinion perspective, the desire to join would never peak below the 75 percent mark, if at all that low — but in fact it recently did.

Hence, is this a sign of the times that the EU has lost its attractiveness among its own member states’ publics? Or, is one or are perhaps more current member states, i.e., their elected governments, getting tired of witnessing the EU not progressing further economically and politically as had been originally intended? Besides, and from the perspective of today’s article, has the EU perhaps lost its appeal altogether to prospective new members? Or, and this is a point never to be overlooked, has Brussels perhaps promised potentially future full member states too much too soon, or never really intended to fulfill its promises anyways.

Much EU integration-inspired food for thought

Now as this is as I had mentioned above a somewhat more frank and definitely more candid Sunday piece than you might have become accustomed to (and why not? — journalistic freedom), let me ponder the hypothetical question of what I would do in case a Wizard of Oz scenario picks me up and transports me into the world of EU politics.

My humble dream persona would have let Turkey so much earlier into the EU or its legal predecessor, the EEC. After Greece, some time in the mid-1980s. That chance was definitely missed with the states belonging to the former Soviet Union in 2004. I would have sent a signal that the EU is ready to embrace not only north-south multiculturalism but Christian-Islam multiculturalism in all its fascinating diversity, too.

And above all else, I would have expressed my thoughts about the often-misinterpreted anchor methodology.

Granted, providing a future full member state with an anchor is one thing it makes certain that the EU Acquis Communautaire becomes part and parcel of everyday life.

But I have a different view, figuratively speaking. From some time onwards in the accession negotiation process, the otherwise somewhat cumbersome acquis anchor must be transformed into something more uplifting, so to speak. Not just ticking off the required boxes, but it must be motivating for the time beyond having ticked off all those boxes.

It must be lifted up in order not to let the candidate country linger in uncertain waters but to assure a safe passage onto EU shores in the comfort of knowing that you are welcome and not eventually refused. So far for my Yellow Brick Road reminiscing.

Back on Planet Earth and what I really would want to inquire about is whether or not Brussels and its European Union decision-makers truly wish to enlarge further or have shelved its plans for good. If so, please let us know now. If not, please devise a much more visible roadmap. No one blames you if you say quotno,quot but assuming that common sense dictates you say quotyes,quot a definite date is an absolute must.