Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (81, 82)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

60 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the accession of ten new member states to the European Union in May 2004 will not be considerably tarnished by the growing number of obstacles being placed in the way of these new states in terms of their mobility and equality within the Union; his views on whether the future enlargement of the Union will take place in a two-tiered manner that is contrary to the spirit of enlargement and the Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4255/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the future enlargement of the European Union is being determined at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4473/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 125 together.

The Government, in light of Ireland's Presidency, looks forward to welcoming the ten new member states into the European Union on 1 May 2004. That day will be a defining moment in the history of the Union and a major highlight of Ireland's EU Presidency. Ireland has placed a high priority during its Presidency on ensuring that these countries are fully and effectively integrated into the Union.

The outcome of the enlargement negotiations was balanced and accepted by both the existing and acceding member states. The accession treaty does not provide for or envisage a two-tier Union. The treaty does provide, in some cases, for transition periods or the option of transition periods, in many cases at the request of the acceding states. The provisions on mobility, including those on the free movement of workers, were agreed by all parties to the accession treaty.

The process of enlargement does not end on 1 May. The December European Council reaffirmed that negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania will be concluded on the same basis and principles as those applied to the ten new member states. The European Union will decide on the question of opening negotiations with Turkey at the European Council in December 2004.

Croatia applied for membership in February 2003 and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is expected to lodge its application soon. At its summit meeting with the western Balkans in Thessaloniki in June 2003, the European Union reiterated that the future of that region is within the European Union. As the European Union continues to enlarge, we make clear our view that moving forward together is the best way for Europe to advance.

The European Union is also developing its policy with regard to its neighbours in the European neighbourhood policy. This is designed to strengthen the framework of the Union's relations with neighbouring countries which do not currently have the prospect of membership of the European Union. In return for concrete progress and the effective implementation of political, economic and institutional reforms reflecting shared values, the initiative offers the Governments of these countries the prospect of closer economic integration with the European Union. The geographical scope of the initiative includes all the countries on the external land and sea border of the enlarged Union. These are Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus and the countries of the southern Mediterranean — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia. In January 2004, the Council invited the Commission to bring forward a recommendation on the relationship of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the European neighbourhood policy.