You read it here first. The top-secret plan on how to enlarge the EU to include central and eastern Europe does not exist. Not in Brussels, not in London or Paris, and not even in Bonn. Nobody has a clue how to organise a union of 25-plus member states including former and not-so-former communist countries. No one wants to pay for eastern enlargement. And everyone-bar the British and Swedes-fears that tampering with the common agricultural policy will trigger a peasant’s revolt.
Fresh thinking might have been expected out of the caravan of civil servants and ministers, a.k.a the Reflection Group, charged with preparing next year’s inter-governmental conference. But they copped out long ago. Carlos Westendorp, the Spaniard who chairs the group, is a master dissembler; but he cannot hide the truth. His report on institutional reform, which will go to the December EU summit in Madrid, is an exercise in timidity.
What is on offer to the central Europeans is “Platonic membership,” says Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, the chubby Polish minister for European affairs. Saryusz-Wolski has almost given up on bedding the west Europeans. The most he can hope for is extended foreplay, better known as the EU’s “pre-accession strategy.” Vaclav Klaus, the Czech leader, is just as disgusted. Klaus thinks the Czechs are at least as qualified as the Greeks to be members of the Union. For once, he’s understating his case.
The west Europeans are simply not serious about letting the east Europeans into their rich man’s club. They’re not even serious about letting them into their meetings. Last year, six east European foreign ministers turned up in Brussels for a “structured dialogue” with their counterparts. They were told to wait outside because of hitches in the EU’s enlargement negotiations with Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Several cups of tea and one or two glasses of vodka later, they were told: “Sorry guys, no time to talk tonight, better take the next plane out of town.”
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One man who ought to be upset by the drift on eastern enlargement is Hans van den Broek, the former Dutch foreign minister who holds the portentous title of EU commissioner for external political affairs. Van den Broek is as dull as ditch-water; a pedant who spends his time fretting about being invited to the right international meetings.
His real interest is Bosnia, but the Americans have relegated the Europeans…