Leading article: Enlargement: the latest, but not the last enlargement

Share

Bulgaria and Romania will be admitted as full members of the European Union in January, the European Commission announced yesterday. That the original timetable will be met reflects well on the EU and the two accession states. The Commission honoured its commitment to the latest enlargement, and Bulgaria and Romania worked hard to overcome known shortcomings in their judicial and economic systems. Once again, the promise of EU membership has been vindicated as an effective mechanism in raising standards of government and civil rights.

Announcing the decision, the Commission's President, Jose Manuel Barroso, stressed that the two countries would be closely monitored for compliance with EU regulations on corruption, food safety and that backsliding could precipitate suspension from the relevant EU provisions. This is the right way round: continued incentives to comply are likely to be more effective than a further extension of the waiting period for full membership that could feed doubt and cynicism among Bulgarians and Romanians about the EU's good faith.

The rejoicing in Sofia and Bucharest, however, was surely augmented by the sense that these two countries were getting into the EU just under the wire. The previous day, Mr Barroso had stated that there should be no further expansion until the EU had decided what to do about its aborted constitutional treaty. This raised question marks over the ambitions, first of Croatia, then of other republics of the former Yugoslavia, and then - of course - of Turkey.

One interpretation of Mr Barroso's remarks was that there would be a clear pause, if not a complete halt, in the EU's expansion. We hope, however, that a more positive gloss applies. So far, the lack of new institutional arrangements seems not to have impaired the EU's functioning a great deal - which is a tribute both to the strength of the central idea, and the desire of the current 25 members to make it work. But it is also true that there have been times when the EU could have been more effective - the recent conflict in Lebanon comes to mind - had it spoken with a single voice.

Rather than accepting that expansion must stall, the EU should take Mr Barroso's remarks as a challenge to restart discussion of institutional reform. This time, proposals should be stripped down to practical essentials, with a view to nothing more ambitious than efficient and equitable administration of the enlarged EU. Countries such as Germany, which is committed to Croatia's early accession, and Britain, which supports the general principle of enlargement, would have an interest in a swift and positive outcome. It is not only aspiring EU members who can benefit from incentives, but existing members too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own