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Jose Manuel Barroso: Enlargement will boost chances of economic reform

From a speech to the Institute of International Finance by the European Commission President

The greatest and most ambitious of (EU) enlargements took place on 1 May last year. There are more to come.

The greatest and most ambitious of (EU) enlargements took place on 1 May last year. There are more to come.

The political importance of enlargement must not be underestimated. It has already contributed to the consolidation of political stability, democracy, and respect for human rights throughout Europe. But enlargement is also economically important. Accession to the EU has provided its newest members with the opportunity to firmly anchor their process of economic catch-up with the older member states.

The institutional, legal and economic policy frameworks associated with preparation for EU membership, and membership itself, provide a basis for closing the income gap. The availability of sizeable EU funds is also a clear sign of the EU's commitment to closing the gap.

The new member states share some of the same structural challenges which the older member states face and which we are tackling through the Lisbon strategy. But I am convinced that, with the recent remarkable experience of economic transition of the new member states, and the dynamic growth of their economies, the new member states will actually improve the chances of Lisbon success.

Finally, an enlarged European Union requires an adaptation of its governance mechanisms. This is where the constitution comes in. If ratified, the new constitution will deliver visible benefits for citizens and for the member states, and will improve the way the European institutions work.

The constitution will clarify the allocation of competences and simplify decision-making. It emphasises that member states are to co-ordinate their economic policies and that it is for the Union to determine the arrangements for this co-ordination.