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Mr Olli Rehn

Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enlargement

Europe’s Blurred Boundaries

Launch of “Europe’s Blurred Boundaries” at the Centre for European Reform
Brussels, 11 October 2006

It is a pleasure to be here today to launch this new publication from the Centre for European Reform. The CER has established itself as the most innovative producer of new ideas on Europe that are both creative and sufficiently close to reality that policy-makers have to take them seriously.

I am particularly pleased that Charles Grant has turned his lively mind to enlargement. His new publication gives welcome food for thought on how to make enlargement work better and how to reinforce neighbourhood policy.

Such a positive contribution on how to keep enlargement on track is very welcome in the current debate. I am politically realistic enough to recognise the problem of hostility to enlargement. Frankly, Europe has the blues about many issues. The enlargement blues are directly related to people’s concerns about globalisation, immigration, the future direction of European integration, and a host of other issues.

In my view, the only way to overcome the blues is to revitalise the whole European project. The Union needs to focus now on the economic and political revival of Europe. The debate about how to make this revival happen should avoid false dichotomies, such as economic versus political Europe, or deepening versus widening.

In fact, we need both an economic Europe and a political Europe. We need economic reforms to enhance competitiveness, and political reforms to make the Union more effective and democratic. These go hand in hand, and they form the EU's policy agenda for 2007-09.

Against this background, let me pick up three particularly important arguments in Charles's new publication.

First, widening versus deepening. History shows that deeper political integration and enlargement have usually proceeded in parallel. Since the 1980s, the number of EU members has more than doubled from 12 to 25, while the Union has simultaneously taken major steps towards deeper integration by establishing the single market, the single currency and reinforcing the common foreign and security policy.

If the EU concentrated solely on deeper integration, the Union would fold in on itself. If the EU focused only on enlargement, it would become too weak.

One of the EU's major challenges is to find the right balance between unity and diversity, homogeneity and heterogeneity, deepening and widening. We have already gone beyond the point where a tightly integrated Union was still a real possibility.

I welcome the debate that is sure to come, and indeed should come, on differentiated integration thanks to Charles’s new ideas in this CER pamphlet. Rightly, Charles quotes Jacques Delors: "One can only reconcile a deepening of the EU integration with enlargement of the EU by allowing some countries to go further".

We have to look again at the principle of enhanced co-operation. This principle is not something new, invented just because the Union has enlarged. It has been in the treaties for nearly a decade and it has been working in practice for rather longer. We have the free movement of people and the single currency thanks to the practical use of enhanced cooperation, which has led to projects developed by just a few member-states later being accepted by the Union as a whole.

Differentiated integration has enabled the Union to maintain dynamism. But any such future project e.g. in justice, liberty and security should be open to any member state willing and able to participate in it. It should be decided in the EU framework and respect its decision-making rules. That is the best and perhaps the only realistic way to square the circle between deepening and widening.

My second point relates to the current debate on the relationship between enlargement and institutional reform. Especially in the British debate, it is commonplace to think that the EU could enlarge perpetually without reforming its decision-making structures. I disagree. Besides, this has never been the case: the history of the EU is of deepening and widening moving in parallel. Where are the famous English empiricism and British pragmatism in this debate?

Besides, in some founding member states, such as Germany and France, opposition to enlargement does not stem only or even mostly from fear of the Polish plumber or cultural rejection of Turkey. Rather, it is because people feel that they don't know where the European project is heading. Hence, we are back to deepening and widening: if the UK wants the EU to continue its gradual and carefully managed accession process, it must accept that the EU's decision-making should be made more effective and its common foreign and security policy reinforced. The answer does not have to be the Constitutional Treaty, but we definitely need a new institutional settlement to achieve these pragmatic, concrete objectives. Again, this kind of an treaty change should be not an alien goal for British pragmatism.

Finally, a point on the relationship between commitments, credibility and conditionality, and the reforms in the candidate countries. What is the best strategy for the EU to deal with Turkey?

Simply, we should be both fair and firm.

We should be fair and uphold our commitment to give Turkey the chance to show whether it can meet the accession criteria. We should be firm in maintaining rigorous conditionality, which is the driver of reforms and modernisation in Turkey.

The burden of proof is on the Turkish side. Turkey knows there is no shortcut to Europe, only the long road towards meeting the rigorous conditions for accession.

Those who talk about a “privileged partnership” are creating a vicious circle of reversed commitments, weakened conditionality and stalled reforms. By keeping our word and sticking firmly to the accession perspective, we can create a virtuous circle of credible commitment, rigorous conditionality and reinforced reforms.

If we want to have a European Turkey, to have it on our side, it is obvious which option we must choose.

I'll conclude by thanking Charles and his colleagues for all the work they have done on enlargement – both this new publication and previous ones over many years. We have a joint mission together with opinion-formers in the EU to show the myths for what they are, and set the record straight on enlargement. Instead of making enlargement the scapegoat for Europe's ills, let's show what a success story it really is.

Thank you for your attention.

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