March 29, 2011

The EU’s Newcomers weigh its costs and benefits 

A high-le A high-level roundtable co-organised by Friends of Europe and the European Development Platform (EDP) with media partner Europe’s World.

Session I – Will the EU’s Troubled “Convergence” debate mean greater divergence between Member States?
12.00 – 13.30

The economic crisis gripping Europe has thrown into sharp relief many of the issues surrounding the EU’s ‘big bang’ enlargement and future ones too. The European Commission’s ideas for re-thinking the EU’s structural and cohesion funds have drawn fire from all sides, provoking speculation that the Hungarian and Polish presidencies of the EU Council will be the focus for heated debate of convergence policies. At the same time, moves by other member states to limit the scale of EU spending from 2014¬20, and therefore their own contributions, are provoking growing tensions among newcomer states hit hardest by the economic slowdown. Could the EU budget negotiations offer an opportunity to address divergent trends among Europe’s national economies, and will this together with the eurozone debt crisis strengthen the case for fiscal harmonisation and even the introduction of some form of EU taxation?

The event was co-moderated by Giles Merritt, Secretary General of Friends of Europe, and Daniel Daianu, President of the European Development Platform.

13.30 – 14.30 Networking lunch

Session II: Are the tensions over Shengen membership symptoms of a wider malaise?
14.30 – 16.00

The delays over Bulgaria and Romania’s membership of Schengen are raising questions about criteria for entry into this EU inner circle and about free movement of labour at a time when economic pressures are so acute. These issues are also highlighting tensions over EU decisionmaking and the influence, or lack of it, that newcomers are able to exert. To what degree have the Lisbon Treaty’s innovations begun to address the newer member states’ concerns that EU membership has not lived up to expectations? Are the 12 newer members becoming more familiar with the levers of power available to them in the EU’s institutions, and what are the political implications of diminishing public support for the EU among the electorates of many of them?

Participants: Some 40 discussants sit around the table. They represented a wide array of stakeholders, including policymakers, business leaders and academics from the EU and Member States. Some 80 observers attended the debate including the international press.

Format: Each session was opened by the introductory discussants, who delivered short, sharp remarks. The moderators kicked off the debate by taking comments from the discussants. The style was informal and spontaneous, with no room for prepared speeches. Roundtable participants were engaged in a lively exchange of opinions. A rapporteur wrote a summary of the debate, which will be largely disseminated.

on March the 29th, @Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels.