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Speech - Ready to join? Perspectives on further EU enlargement and what it means for transatlantic business

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/13/735   24/09/2013

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European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Ready to join? Perspectives on further EU enlargement and what it means for transatlantic business

American Business Forum on Europe /New York, USA

23 September 2013

Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First let me thank the American Business Forum on Europe for the invitation to speak to you today and for hosting this event.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring you up to date on the perspectives for further enlargement of the European Union and what it means for transatlantic business - all the more so because:

  1. We are partners in the strongest foreign investment and trade relationship in the world; and

  2. as we face the challenges of globalisation and the opportunities it presents, we are strengthening this relationship by launching the biggest ever bilateral trade and investment negotiations between the European Union and the United States, bringing more jobs and more growth to Europe and the United States, changing the lives of millions of people for the better.

In the second part of my presentation, I will say a few words about where we stand with these negotiations; but let me start with three remarks about enlargement of the European Union.

First, enlargement is widely acknowledged to be our most successful policy. Successive accessions have seen the number of Member States gradually increase from the original 6 to 28.

Second, since its inception, it has responded to the legitimate aspiration of the peoples of our continent to be united in a common European endeavour.

Third, at a time when the European Union faces major challenges and significant global uncertainty, enlargement policy continues to contribute to peace, security and prosperity on our continent.

This was recognised by the Nobel Committee last year when they announced the award of the 2012 peace prize to the European Union for its contribution to peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.

Let's take a look at the state of play with enlargement today:

  1. there are five candidate countries: Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Iceland; and

  2. three potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo1.

This represents a total population of about 100 million, equivalent to a 20% increase in the population of the European Union if they were to become members today. I mention this because with the emergence of the so-called "BRICS" (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the North Atlantic are no longer the only dominant players on the world stage. Size matters.

Of course, Turkey, with its population of over 80 million and its dynamic economy is a key country for the European Union. Recent events there highlight more than ever, the need for the European Union to remain the anchor for democratisation and modernisation in the country – in short, Turkey needs more European standards and values, not less.

Progress in the Western Balkans has been impressive in 2013. Croatia became our 28th Member on the 1st of July. Negotiations with Montenegro are advancing well and in June we opened accession negotiations with Serbia. We are also negotiating a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo. Combined with the accession of Croatia, this sends a clear signal to the whole region: if you have the courage and are committed, the European Union is able to respond.

Working in parallel with enlargement, and spurred on by the financial crisis, Europe is also deepening its integration with the majority of Member States working to put in place a European banking union with central European bank supervision; a European fiscal union with stricter controls over national budgets and deficits; and a European economic union, with more joint decision making on economic and social policies. We are making sure that enlargement countries are associated as closely as possible to these far reaching changes.

So what does all this mean for business interests? What are the benefits? The word that comes immediately to my mind is confidence. Thanks to the deep reforms that are at the heart of European Enlargement, businesses can be confident that they can operate in an environment:

  1. where the rule of law is assured and corruption is fought hard;

  2. where the judiciary is effective and efficient;

  3. where property rights are clear;

  4. where public administration is transparent, effective, accountable and has the capacity to meet the needs of business;

  5. where administrative burdens are low; and

  6. where European standards are the norm.

I am confident that US investors already present in the enlargement countries and also those that wish to increase their business in these countries will see the concrete benefits of the enlargement process. For those US companies already present in the EU, the enlargement will mean a greater market, and hence greater scope for economies of scale, easier access to new resources and greater opportunities.

Let me turn now to the landmark trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States of America which were launched last June.

Less than two years ago, no-one was seriously thinking of a transatlantic Free Trade Agreement. Now, here we are, we have officially launched the biggest ever bilateral trade and investment negotiations. This is a major step forward!

Let me stress the bigger picture, which we should keep in mind:

An ambitious and comprehensive trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership could bring significant economic gains as a whole for the European Union ($158 billion a year) and the US ($126 billion a year) once the agreement is fully implemented. In the short run, it is a strong signal that the European Union and the United States of America are committed to deepening and opening trade. This is a sign of confidence which businesses need in times of uncertainty and a sign of joint leadership on the global scale.

The benefits for the European Union and the United States would not be at the expense of the rest of the world. On the contrary it would have a positive impact on worldwide trade and income, potentially increasing GDP in the rest of the world by almost $177 billion.

The economic importance of the European Union and the United States will mean that their partners will also have an incentive to move towards the new transatlantic standards. This has the potential to spread gains across the global economy, which is increasingly interdependent especially given the ever greater complexity of global value chains.

There was a very productive first round of negotiations in Washington in the week of 8 July which paved the way for an intense process of negotiations.

Both sides are committed to a high level of ambition and an important objective has been met: we had a substantive round of talks covering the full range of topics that we intend to cover in this agreement.

This agreement has the potential to deliver something transformative for our economies in terms of market access, regulatory compatibility and rule-making.

In this round our negotiators in the various groups have accomplished what they had to do:

  1. we have set out our approaches and in many areas our respective ambitions;

  2. we have identified certain areas of convergence across various components of the negotiation – in areas of divergence we have begun to explore how such divergences can be reconciled;

  3. in short, we have paved the way for a substantive second round of negotiations in Brussels in October.

In all components of the negotiations, negotiators have thoroughly reviewed all the stakeholders inputs received. We were happy to engage with the 350 or so stakeholders that attended events organised by the United States side during the week when negotiations were launched in Washington DC. The following week we also organised a stakeholder event in Brussels with our civil society.

We are also committed to achieving a very high degree of transparency. That is why we took the unprecedented step of making available to the public a number of the EU's initial position papers on various aspects of the negotiations. The papers are the technical documents that we presented to our American counterparts during the first negotiating round. We may release further papers in the future, particularly in relation to specific areas of regulatory cooperation.

Turning to the next steps, the European Commission and the Office of the United States Trade Representative are planning to hold the second round of negotiations in Brussels during the week of 7 October. And the third round of negotiations should take place in Washington in December. During the next round, work will intensify in all areas. This requires substantial homework on both sides.

In the meantime, meetings at political level will take place in order to review progress and give political guidance and backing.

To conclude, I have painted a picture for you today of a European Union that is deepening its integration, extending its zone of stability and prosperity through enlargement and at the same time strengthening its relationship with its most important trading partner, the United States of America.

So while there is a tendency to paint the EU as self-absorbed and mired in an intractable economic crisis, this agenda shows that we are very conscious that remaining outward-looking is a crucial priority. And I have not mentioned all the work being done in our Neighbourhood or the ambitious trade liberalisation agenda with Asia.

I have also painted a picture of a world where the ideological rivalries of the past have been replaced by the need for rules, for a regulatory framework based on transparency and trust in which European and American businesses can thrive. That is what we are striving for together. That is the future of transatlantic business.

1 :

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.


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