>EU enlargement: The glass Füle than you might think?
EU Enlargement Commission Štefan Füle comes to Chatham House and along with a fairly large, most diplomatic, audience of 60 other people I go to hear him. The relatively large number of attendees means that the Chatham House rule is off and the remarks are on the record, although the Commissioner ignores his publicly prepared remarks and gives a fairly substantive case-by-case ex-tempore the enlargement state of play one year in to the new Commission’s term. There few major surprises, but nothing to evasive either in a workman-like working through of issues
Enlarement was, he said, broadly going well. The name of the game was, however, to beef up the credibility of the enlargment process, learning lessons from earlier enlargments. This has been doubt with clear benchmarks for opening and closing chapters in places, whcih didn’t exist previously. Serbia, once it gains canidate status, could he thought have the capacity and political will to make fairly fast progress in negotiations. Iceland would be an interesting and special case – as a European Economic Area member it has adopted a third of the acquis already and another third was being swifting negotiated. However, the Icelandic public – while in favour of talks about membership – was less keen on membership itself and the Icelandic government’s need to balance between acquis and voters was something the Commission needed to bear in mind when closing an eventual deal.
The forthcoming Hungarian and Polish presidencies were an ideal opportunity – indeed, perhaps the opportunity – to advance the Eastern Partnership up the EU agenda. In future, such differentiated approaches to different Neighbourhoods around the EU would become more common and more developed, as the position and needs of the East was different from that of the South,where the relationship with the EU would not go so far (No mention of Tunisa, or the questions around Hungary’s current government either from SF or questionners). As regards Turkey the ball was really in Ankara’s court and there needed to be movement to unblock various issues: the bigger size and foreign policy vision of Turkey made it a different case, but he had not entertain the possibility that the Turks would walk away from accession, still less – as one questionner asked – that if they did it might benefit other would-be and candidate members (presumably by lowering the stakes of enlargement). A more thought through and coherent policy going beyond the reactive measures seen in the pasr was needed on Belarus – previously Lukashenka had always retained the initaitve and, while concessions had been extracted, the status quo was not acceptable. Kosova/o was sufficiently thorny, that the Commissioner decidied to leave it to the Q & A but , in the event, there were none.
The Commission left more or less bang on schedule at 15.10 with his car outside. Round the corner my bus was also pretty much instantly there.