Home - Senaste nytt - Utvidgning - Tyskland- German industry calls for moderate pace in EU eastwards expansion

German industry calls for moderate pace in EU eastwards expansion

A paper produced by Germany's DIHT federation of chambers of trade and industry sets out the clearest statement to date of German industry's growing resistance to an early eastwards expansion of the European Union. Handelsblatt has seen a copy of the paper, titled Europe 2000 Plus.

In the paper, the DIHT estimates that Hungary and Slovenia will be ready to join the EU in 2004, while entry for Poland is not seen as a realistic prospect before 2005. The Czech Republic and Estonia, meanwhile, are not expected to be ready until 2006. These are the five former Communist countries earmarked for the first wave of EU expansion. The paper does not discuss the question of an entry date for the second-wave states of Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia.

The DIHT's estimates will appear excessively cautious to the governments in the former Communist states. But the DIHT argues that existing timescales are not realistic. It concedes that the states in question have made economic advances. But in the case of Poland for example, which is is striving for entry in 2003, the DIHT points out that some 180 pieces of legislation will be needed before it can be said to have taken over the full Acquis communautaire.

For the DIHT, this is an important point. Its expert in east European affairs, Torsten Klette, argues that German businesses need to be certain that EU regulations are already in force and that a reliable legal system is in place.

In the paper, the DIHT also urges the EU to reach rapid agreement on the institutional reforms needed to bring the EU into a position where it is able to absorb new members.

The DIHT joins a growing number of voices in Germany that have argued that the hope of early eastwards EU expansion is an illusion.

A study commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert foundation and published only last week suggested 2006 as an ideal expansion date, citing economic reasons. The BDI industry association has also called for a "new realism".

The BDI has further argued that it is wrong to set a target date for expansion and that the quality of negotiations should take precedence over goal-setting. This echoes an argument that has been presented by Bavaria's premier Edmund Stoiber (CSU). Sources in the Bavarian government point out that EU entry by Spain and Portugal was preceded by seven years of negotiations.

The Europe spokesman of the parliamentary faction of Germany's governing SPD, Norbert Wieczorek, told Handelsblatt that the government had always avoided setting firm entry dates. The only target that had been set was that the EU should be ready to absorb new members by the end of 2002. Only then would member states be in a position to make decisions on the basis of entry negotiations.

The ratification process would last 12–18 months, he said.

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