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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Closing remarks in the European Parliament debate on Enlargement
European Parliament Plenary debate on the Report of MEP Maria-Eleni Koppa "Enlargement: policies, criteria and EU strategic interests".
Strasbourg, 21 November 2012
Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,
It was an important debate today with important messages. What a perfect time to remind ourselves, to remind our Member States, to remind the Commission and to remind our aspirant and candidate countries that:
a) enlargement has never been part of the problem; it has always been a part of the solution.
b) the EU has never been about building walls but about eliminating dividing lines through values and principles.
c) there is no more powerful an instrument of transformation as enlargement. This is an absolutely unique instrument we have in our hands and we need to use it wisely throughout our neighbourhood. And that leads me to sum up the important contributions of this debate and I see six of them:
1. The contribution to the debate on the interaction between the integration process going deeper and deeper and at the same time extending the EU. What has made this EU strong and big? Only enlargement? I doubt. Only going deeper and deeper? I doubt. It is the combination of those two! Let´s not cut off one of our arms now, only because we are facing many problems. To say that the time for enlargement will come? No. It is the interaction between enlargement and deeper integration which is making the EU stronger. And in this context, whether we call it "an associated membership" or something similar, let´s have a discussion about a multi-layered EU. Whether we call it a political union or federation of national states, it needs to be an enlargement-friendly Union. And at the time when the Member States debate various levels of integration, let´s open sooner or later the issue to what extent do we allow the candidate countries - maybe not those who are already in the process, but to others, some of you were referring to - different ways to be a part of this tremendous project.
2. Credibility – it comes through lessons learnt, through engagement. We are being creative and we will continue to be creative because it is through this engagement we are fighting the reform fatigue. I am not that much concerned by the enlargement fatigue but we need to be aware that if we are not careful enough, that enlargement fatigue would turn to a reform fatigue and then we have a problem, because any problem in our neighbourhood is our problem.
3. Economic governance: let´s make sure that candidate and aspirant countries are part of our efforts to address the issues of economic governance. Let´s make sure that through accession negotiations we are not only addressing the acquis of the past but also the acquis of the future.
4. Adequate financing: As far as I am concerned it is not necessarily about more money. It is about those resources being better spent and this is definitely one of the issues where I need your support.
5. Bilateral issues: enlargement is not about importing open bilateral issues into the EU. We need to make sure that it does not also blow up the accession negotiations. We need to be sure that the unaddressed and unresolved bilateral issues do not create mines which blow up in front of our eyes in the framework of the accession process. I am very much open to finding ways including the one of arbitration, turning to The Hague, to address those bilateral issues in parallel to the accession negotiation process. Let us discuss where is the line when we would like to see all bilateral issues solved. I would be in favour of that line being the signing of accession treaty because it is the accession process which creates momentum to address those issues.
6. Nobel peace prize: If I think about it, maybe I am wrong in my interpretation, but I think the EU got this prize exactly for its ability to put the deepening of integration and enlargement at the service of its people. Needless to say that I take this prize as a strong signal to the EU at this critical time: a signal not to look over our shoulders, not to look backwards, but to look forward.