Over the last two decades, the enlargement of the European Union has resulted into political headlines across Europe. This is as a result of the high number of states that have applied for inclusion in the community after the fall of communism in the continent in the last decade of the 20th century. The last two enlargements have been therefore the most spectacular due to the number of states many of them in a transition state joining the union.
Resolution to adopt ten states into the European Union by the European parliament was adopted in 2003 after the states applied to be full members of the community and be integrated into the European economic organization. These states included the members of the communist bloc which were required to meet certain conditions such as developing a market economy that was functional, demonstrate that they uphold the democracy and human rights and strictly follow the European Union policies and laws.
The states were also expected to adopt the euro which is the common currency used by the European Union countries (Pelkmans & Casey 2003). A number of the communist countries which joined the European Union in 2003 had previously formed the Visegrad Group. This union consisted of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and the Slovak republic while had communism form of governance. These countries were considered satellite states and were more or less the same as the Soviet Union. They were run by a single party government and the fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the basic principles of democracy were inexistence.
The fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe was followed by the immediate decision by the former satellite communist states to join the European Union and NATO. Almost all the countries in Eastern and Central Europe had the desire to join the European Union but could not be admitted because they could not meet the criterion of admission. This is because of the political symbol associated with the European Union as opposed to the communist states as well as the rights and freedoms of guaranteed to the citizens (Stephen 2009).
The political controversy surrounding the enlargement of the European Union to the eastern and central state in Europe was based on the fact that these countries, though small in terms of population and the economic contribution to the larger European community, they were joining the European union not as ‘little brothers’ as they were in the communist bloc with the Soviet Union but as equal partners. The peasant agricultural societies which formed the majority in these countries for the first time had an opportunity to push for the interest not only at the national level but also on the regional level.
This resulted in uncalled for influence on the decision making processed especially the common agricultural policy (David & Birol, 2007). The expansion of the European Union to the central as well as the eastern states in Europe has been the greatest challenge faced by the European Union in the recent past. The big challenge was basically because of the conditions at which this large number of states joined the European community. The countries were struggling politically having adopted democratic governance after the collapse of communism in Europe.
Moreover, the countries were struggling economically with the average income in majority of this countries being very low compared to other countries in the European Union. This presented a lot of policy problems especially the common agricultural policy (Swinnen 2002) It is important to note the importance of the common agricultural policy in the European Union in order to understand the impacts of the enlargement of the European Union after the collapse of communism in Europe. The common agricultural policy is the most important common policy in the community accounting for almost half of the European Union budget.
This indicates that the policy has a large influence on European politics and policy issues and greatly influences the economies of the member states. The policy also extends its impacts on other parts of the world in countries that are not member states which are trade partners of with European countries. Despite the progressive increase in the number of member states in the European Economic Community from five in the mid 20th century to fifteen members in the European Union, the common agricultural policy has remained the most eminent policy in the union (Bache & Stephen 2006).
The politics in the member states as well as in the union have always had an impact on the public policy in the European Union. The policies also have an impact on the politics of the member states as well as the union politics. Therefore the enlargement of the European Union to include ten countries in eastern and central Europe would obviously have some impacts on the politics and policies in the union. This is as a result of the structural changes that followed to accommodate the new states in the community. It is important to note that all the decisions made in the European Union are directly related to the politics in the region.
Therefore the common agricultural policy and other European union are affected by the changes in the politics of the regions. Other factor that affects the decisions includes the position of the state in the union and the supranational level. External factors such as the influence of third party states who are also trade partners are limited (Pelkmans & Casey 2003). The political changes in the European Union as a result of enlargement results into institutional changes in the European commission which affects policy making in different ways.
The enlargement meant that the members of the commission representing different states increased abruptly. This will automatically alter the attachment of the commission to different policies that were upheld by the European Union such as the common agricultural policies. For example some changes were observed in the enlargement that integrated Austria, Sweden and Finland into the union in the mid 1990’s where the agriculture minister who come from Austria stressed the importance of environmental aspects of agriculture and thus affecting the policies regarding agriculture.
This is mainly because environmentally friendly methods are encouraged in Austria which was introduced in to the union by the minister (Wiarda 2002). The enlargement of the European has several economic implications which include the increased geographical coverage of the common policies, increased range of products and changes in the costs. This may affect the region and other trade partners around the world positively or negatively.
For example, the expansion of the common agricultural policy in the 1970’s cost Australia its export market to the European countries while the enlargement in the 1980’s and 1990’s increase the European market for goods such as wine and sunflower products from Mediterranean countries. Moreover, the enlargement has an impact on the European Union’s budget. A very good example is the unification of Germany which resulted into changes in the political framework in Europe resulting into changes in the policies (Piket 2006).
As stated earlier the biggest problem in the enlargement of the European Union eastwards was the status of the countries as well as their population. Majority of the population in these countries were peasant farmers and therefore the political interest of these countries had a large influence on the agricultural policies of European Union. Moreover, the incentives created by the entry of the countries into the European common market as a result of increased prices increased agricultural productivity in these countries.
This has increased the cost of maintaining these countries within the confines of the common agricultural policies. Other that the cost, the entry of these countries has resulted into increased political influence in the agricultural policies because it is their main interests in the European Union (Bache, I. & Stephen 2006). The political influence has impacted negatively on other agricultural countries such as Australia which export their products to European countries. This has made it impossible to attain policy reforms that touch on agriculture since the enlargement.
The main problem is however due to the over reliance of the countries in Eastern and Central Europe on agriculture as the only source of income for the economy as opposed to the more developed countries in the west who rely on different sectors of the economy. The current arrangement since the entry of the small countries in Eastern and central Europe have increase political influence of these countries in the decision making of the council. This has been through the increased votes after they were distributed in after the enlargement.
Although these countries contribute a very small percentage of the European population and their economic contribution is also insignificant, they will have a substantial political influence in the important decision making. The distribution of the votes was a big controversy in the Amsterdam Treaty (Pelkmans & Casey 2003). It is however important to note that the decisions made in the European Union are not entirely based on the votes of different governments on the matter or the political interests of different countries in the European community affairs.
Rather, decisions are determined by the ability of the political and other interest groups to influence the government to push for policies that favor them. It is also important to note the disparities between different political groups in the Central and Eastern Europe countries. There are a number of rich businessmen who are reformed communists and have a large political influence as well as the agricultural society with strong religious and nationalism affiliations which also has the ability to exert political pressure to the political class (Pelkmans & Casey 2003).
A good example of such polarity that has been able to exert influence on decision making processes has been experienced in Poland. The government in the country is a coalition of the Peasant Party which represents the interest of the agricultural community in the country and the reformed communist parties. The two political groups have had great political influence in the country based on the last elections result. The same case applies to Romania where the communist government was replaced a coalition government between the Christian Democratic National Peasants Party and the reformed communists.
These divergent political groups have varying political influences on the domestic government which in tern has some impacts on the influence of the government on the regional policies (Pelkmans & Casey 2003). The agricultural communities and interests groups in Hungary are also well developed although they are not as political as the case in Poland and Romania. However, being the majority in the country, they have some influences on the positions held by the political leaders and the subsequent policies.
Other countries in Central and Eastern Europe that were included in the expansion such as the Czech republic and Estonia have more diverse economy because they are relatively more developed and therefore do not have vested interests on main policies issues in the European Union such as the common agricultural policy. The political influence of the enlargement is therefore not as a result of the new state’s economic and social interests in the European commission but rather influence exerted on the government due to the political situation in these countries as well as the economy of the population (Pelkmans & Casey 2003).
In conclusion, the enlargement of the European Union has always attracted some attention but the enlargement to accommodate the Central and Eastern Europe states has been the most spectacular. This is partly due to the conditions under which the countries were admitted to the European Union. The countries were in a transitional state having been communist countries for a long time therefore had not fully attained democracy. Moreover, the countries were less developed compared to other countries in the European Union and a large number of them were admitted at the same time. Bibliography Bache, I. & Stephen, G.
(2006). Politics in the European Union, New York: Oxford University Press. David M. W. & Birol A. Y. (2007). The Emerging European Nation, 4th ed. (New York: Pearson, Longman, 65-82 Pelkmans J. & Casey, J. (2003). EU Enlargement: External Economic Implications, http://www. coleurop. be/content/studyprogrammes/eco/publications/BEEPs/BEEP4. pdf. Piket, V. (2006). EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Russian Regional Perspectives Journal. 1(3), http://www. iiss. org/programmes/russia-and-eurasia/copyof-russian-regional-perspectives-journal/rrp-volume-1-issue-3/eu-enlargement-and-and-neighbourhood-policy/
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