What is the EU Criteria for Ascension? A Comparison of Progress Reports for Poland and Slovakia (1999)

Term Paper, 2000
15 Pages, Grade: 5 Points

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Autor: Robert Pernetta

Evaluation of the EU membership criteria On the basis of the Commission's Second Progress Report for Poland and Slovakia

1 Introduction

Europe after the 2. World War was in its development determined by the confrontation between the Western and Eastern Block. This situation led to the military, ideological and economic integration of the Central and Easters European countries into the satellite state system of the Soviet Union represented by COMECON and the Warsaw Pact. The Western integration on the other side of the ,,iron curtain" was a military one led by the USA resulting in the founding of NATO on the one side a economical one on the other. The economic integration was unlike its Eastern equivalent voluntary and not dominated by one country. The idea behind the founding of the Montanunion in 1951 which later led to the signing of the s Roman Treaties in 1957, in which the European Communities (EC) were formed, was on the one hand a Pan-European ideal to overcome the German-French antagonism and the other hand pure economic considerations to strengthen the individual national economies.1 In the following years the EC was characterised by a further deepening as well as a further enlargement but both were dominated by economic factors. The accession of the former authoritarian ruled, young and unstable democracies of Greece, Spain and Portugal in the 1980s was also of political reasons to stabilise Europe. The ,,Autumn of Nations" in 1989 took the western European countries surprise, which were completely occupied with the creation of the Single Market and the creation of EEA as well as they made them self comfortable their back turned to the Iron Curtain. The Central and Easters European countries following their political needs and also regarding them self as Europeans wanted to join as soon as possible, whereas the EC was against the Eastern enlargement. Since 1991 the EC respectively the EU changed its opinion and offered the so-called ,,Europe Agreements" which lead via an associated status to a possible future accession.

At the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 the Union described for the first time the general conditions for an accession. ,,Accession will take place as soon as an associated country is able to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required." 2 These obligation of membership are of political dimension regarding ,,... democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;... of economic dimension regarding ...the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union."3 Also the legal system regarding the content of the Treaties known as the ,,acquis communitaire" have to be approximated by the candidate countries.

The next important step in the eastern enlargement of the EU was The White Book in which the criteria of accession were explained in a more detailed way. The most important part for the future member countries is the ,,Annex of the White Paper". In which the EU legislation is described and it is also a ,,cooking receipt" which helps the countries to implement the legislation. In the Madrid European Council a fourth criterion was added, the administrative capacity to apply the acquis. This is the result of a learning process of the EU Commission that the adoption of legislation is not enough, as well there is a ,,need to create the conditions for the gradual, harmonious integration of the candidates, particularly through the adjustment of their administrative structures." 4

In 1997 the Commission presented the Agenda 2000 report, this report contains beside EU internal issues, the Commission's opinion in which extend the application countries meet the criteria. The Commission recommended that accession negotiations start with five CEE countries. This decision was based on the so called ,,Zero-Report", which should be followed each year by a new report. ,,From the end of 1998, the Commission will make regular reports to the Council, together with any necessary recommendations for opening bilateral intergovernmental conferences, reviewing the progress of each Central and East European candidate State towards accession in the light of the Copenhagen criteria, in particular the rate at which it is adopting the Union acquis."5

Therefore the Reports play a decisive role in the negotiation process between the Union and the individual applicant countries. In this process they will discuss 31 different issues, so called chapters, in bilateral talks. The membership is possible when an applicant has opened and closed (met the criteria or a transition period granted). Following the reactions in media and politics which followed the publication of the 2. Progress Report in October 1999 a second role of this Report is obvious. The Report influences the assessment of media, investors, domestic and foreign politicians of the countries situation. This could be seen by the Czech governments nearly hectic activity to pass new laws or increased Slovak selfconfident regarding EU accession in November this year.

This draws our attention on the content of the Progress Reports, especially the recent 2. Progress Report, to answer the question of what does the EU regard as important, of what kind the criteria are and when does the Commission regard a criterion as met. In this paper the focus will be on the first tier applicant Poland and its neighbour, which is regarded as a promising applicant in the second tier.

2 Evaluation of Slovakia's and Poland's 2. Progress Report

The report takes into consideration progress since the 1998 Report. It looks at whether intended reforms referred to the last Reports have been carried out and examines new initiatives, including those directly related to addressing Accession Partnership priorities. The report contains a separate section which examines the extent to which Poland has addressed the short term priorities and started to address the medium term priorities set out in the Accession Partnership.

While the assessment of progress in meeting the political and acquis criteria focuses on that which has been accomplished since the last Regular Report, the economic assessment is based on a longer term evaluation of Poland's economic performance. The assessment of progress made in adopting the acquis has been made on the basis of adopted legislation rather than legislation which is in various stages of preparation or approval.6

2.1 Political criteria

The evaluation of political criteria is divided in two different chapters, at first concerning democracy and rule of law whereas the second concerns human rights and rights of minorities.

2.1.1 Democratic criteria and rule of law

For Poland the most important progress mentioned is that the institutions work smoothly, the new institution is respected and works, the government despite the differences within the coalition and the cohabitation with the president is able to undertake further reforms. The regional reform which introduced regions (Wojewódstwo), districts (Poviat) and communities (Gmina) is assessed as a positive step towards decentralisation. The Commission is worried about the Judiciary and the high corruption within the administration. These points will be executed closer in the chapter describing the administrative capacity.(_2.4)7

The evaluation of Slovakia's progress is very euphoric, the last parliamentary and presidential elections were led through according the OSCE commitments, the opposition is allowed to play full part in its activities and the government consisting of four parties has learned to compromise. About the Judiciary the Report mentions the strengthening of independence. Anti-corruption measures have a higher political importance compared to Poland, because high rank politicians of the former government were involved in corruption affairs.8

In conclusion it can be said that ... ,,Poland fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria."9 and the critique pointed out regarding democracy and rule of law could also be pointed out at some EU members. Regarding Slovakia the evaluation, that ,,since September 1998 Slovakia now fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria"10 is rather political motivated, because in the report is also mentioned that ,,further steps to ensure respect for the Constitution have to be undertaken... and to foster and strengthen the functioning of the institutions of democracy"11 . In my opinion the Commission states in this Report rather its approval of the replacement of ex-Prime Minister Meciar and his nationalist HZDS by Schuster and the centrist coalition than the stability of democracy in Slovakia.

2.1.2 Human and minority rights

Poland's improvement in Human Rights are not very significant but mostly they already met the EU's expectations. The Report writes much about the vetting process of MPs (Lustracja) and the Remembrance institute without assessing this. The Commission complains about limited rights of women, especially in spousal violence and rights of children. Even the government cancelled an UN programme that should bring improvements this is seems to be for the EU no major lapse, because it is not mentioned in the general evaluation.12 Slovakia improved the minority rights of the Hungarian and Ruthenian minority, but is has to pay more attention to the situation of the Roma and to fight discriminatory attitudes in society and infringement on Roma.13 The Report describes the situation in Slovakia as quite positive especially in the finally evaluation, but between the lines the difference between de-facto and de-jure rights is shown.

2.2 Economic criteria

The European Union in general is perceived as a economic alliance which wants ,, in the whole Community a harmonic, well-balanced and sustained development of economic live, ... a high level of competitive and convergence of economic performance...(EU-Treaty 1993, 2nd Article)"14 this is covered by the ,,first pillar". This draws the attention to the second part of the Report, especially if one take the difference of economic performance in the EU-countries and the associated countries in consideration. This chapter is divided in three parts at first description of macroeconomics performance and changes, second evaluation of the existence of free-market economy and last the ability of the economy to compete on macro- and microeconomics level with the other Union's countries.

2.2.1 Economic Development

Already in the 1997 Commission's Opinion Poland was ,,regarded as a functioning market economy"15 The stability of Polish economy was proved by its withstanding of the Russian and Eastern neighbours crisis, it had effect on Poland's high trade and current account deficit, increased the unemployment slightly but had serious effect on the rural and eastern areas due to reduced export of agricultural goods and the so-called ,,suitcase trade". Most macroeconomics figures are still positive also the positive development slowed down. The main driving factor of Polish economy is the SME sector, which generates 45% of the GDP and gives about 60% of employment (mostly second or third employment which is necessary for many Polish households). As main deficit is stated to improve the development of rural areas which greatly did not benefit of Poland's economic growth.16 (see also 2.3.3)

,,Slovakia is close to being a functioning market economy thanks to the courageous policy decisions and the impressive reform agenda of the new government"17 This statement again shows the EU's favour for the new political leaders in Bratislava. Looking at the macroeconomics data which are rather discouraging like the lower GDP growth in 1988 (it dropped from 7% to 4,4%) and the increasing already high unemployment (increasing from 12,5% to 15,8%) the positive attitude of the EU towards governments short-term and medium-term stabilisation measures, like cutting down public employment or freezing social support are quite puzzling. This can rather be understand as a support for the governments austerity policy than the economic performance.

The government plans a wide scale privatisation and restructuring programme, but legal barriers still hinder FDI and restructuring. It is surprising that the biased economic development in Slovakia between the capital and other areas is not mentioned, despite the GDP per capita is higher in Slovakia (47% of EU average) than in Poland (37%), the difference between the richest and poorest area is much wider (SK: 105%, 36%; PL: 55%, 25%).18

For both countries can be stated that except of the EMU criteria, which are not necessary for accession the EU does not give specific figures which have to be met or not.19

2.2.2 Existence of functioning market economy

,,As set out in Agenda 2000 the existence of a functioning market economy requires that prices, as well as trade, are liberalised and that an enforceable legal system, including property rights, is in place. Macro-economic stability and consensus about economic policy enhance the performance of a market economy. A well-developed financial sector and the absence of any significant barriers to market entry and exit improve the efficiency of the economy."20

For Poland it can be said that it fulfils greatly the demanded criteria, deficits are only seen in the in restructuring and privatisation, which will be undertaken by the government soon. Slovakia has still a long way to go to meet the demands, beginning with lacking political consensus about economic policy, over the still high number of regulated prises up to the lacking of a supporting legal environment for private enterprises. In most fields the government has undertaken measures or is planning to do so.21

2.2.3 Capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union

This chapter focus on the ability of the country's economic ability to withstand the penetration of EU goods, services and capital without breakdown of the own economy. It is also important that the country is able to bring its products into the market of the other countries. For Poland the major obstacle is the lacking infrastructure, which is also needed for an more equalised development of the country. The increasing number of students and academics is an decisive factor for the countries long term development. The Commission regards the willing of many people to take part in vocational training as very positive but also criticise the lacking of possibilities in the rural areas and the small town. The fear of the EU members that Poland will blow out the CAP is expressed as low productivity and difference in quality of the country's agriculture. Here is to mention that the Polish agricultural goods are of rather high quality in the meaning of organic farming but far from EU-normed food. The report adds that the trade protection is only a short term advantage for Polish economy, because it postpones the confrontation with the Single Market competition. Finally the Report states that Poland in medium-term is able to cope with the competitive pressure.22

23 For Slovakia the Report points out that the professional qualification is high but due to the low mobility (housing problem) there are areas with high unemployment and others with lacking of qualified people. The ability of Slovakia to penetrate the Western markets is very strong depending on three great companies (esp. VW) and the SME participation in exports remains low. The increasing protectionism and depreciation of the Koruna to reduce the account balance support on short-term the Slovak economy, but is on the long-term counterproductive for an economic integration. In comparison to Poland the Slovak agriculture inherited from collective farming is rather equal to EU standard. As mentioned before the government has to undertake wide-scale restructuring to improve the economic performance. In conclusion the Commission writes that in medium-term Slovakia is able meet this criterion, but tacking the structural problems into consideration this medium-term must be of another dimension than the Polish.

2.3 Ability to assume the obligations for membership

Apart from economic and political criteria there is a third group of conditions for becoming a member of the EU established at the European Council Copenhagen in 1993. It states that the candidates should have the ability to take on the obligations of membership and the adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. In the Regular Report the Commission evaluates the existence of functioning of the ,,legal and institutional framework, known as the acquis, through which the union implements its objectives"24 . To understand the importance of this chapter better it must be added, that the Commission's opinion of implementing conditions which are harmonious with the EU-member countries works via implementation of EU-law and regulation described in Annex of the White Paper. Since the third part of the report is very extensive comprising the evaluation of the whole legal approximation the paper focus only on a few areas to make the process of estimation clearer.

2.3.1 The internal market without frontiers

The term ,,internal market" is defined in Article 14 of the Treaty - it is ,,an area without internal frontiers in which free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured." It must be based on an open-market economy. Competition as well as economic and social cohesion are of a great importance.

What does the Commission think about Polish and Slovak achievements in this field? It seems that Slovakia made greater efforts implementing many new laws in 1998. However, it is important to remember that Slovakia had to make up quickly for the stagnation under PM Meciar's government. More effort is still needed on the area of free movement of goods, capita, persons (mutual recognition of professional qualification) . Nevertheless Slovakia successfully adopted the law on State Aids, lack of which is one of major shortcomings of Polish legal and institutional framework. In general Poland's progress in 1998 wasn't very impressive, however it was satisfactory in some areas (services, capital movements).25 ,26

2.3.2 Sectoral Policies

The situation within the Polish and Slovak industrial sector is totally different. Poland's industrial policy principles follow these of EU's own policy to a great extent endorsing market-based rules of competition and free enterprise. In the recent years an appropriate legislation has attracted high level of FDI. Thanks to robust industrial performance Poland has been able to maintain its growth rate despite negative external shocks. However many problems remained unsolved. Little has been done as far as the EU technical standarts, product safety requirements and rules of competition are concerned. As a result Polish producers have to produce according two different systems. The Commission emphasises delays in industrial restructuring, and their main matter of concerns seems to be the steel and mining sector since there appears to be not strategy for these particular industries.27

The new Slovak government adopted a new programme for the industry in January 1999 trying to improve the business enviroment and competitiveness. Another package for foreign investment support was approved in March. However the level of FDI into Slovakia has remained very low. In September 1999 the law in large-scale privatisation was amended - the law on strategic companies was cancelled out and the privatisation of stakes in natural monopolies in banking, telecommunication etc. is now legally feasible. Unfortunately state owned bank are still burdened with ,,bad debts" and a very high ratio of non-performing loans. Therefore they are unable to provide the necessary financing for expanding Slovak, especially SME companies. A restructuring and privatisation programme for state owned banks was started by government in August 1999.28

2.3.3 Regional cohesion

Poland has in its history only little experience in regionalism which was strengthened by Communist centralism, therefore derive the great differences in regional development between the cities and the ,,Eastern-wall". From low level of preparation Poland has made great efforts to create structures and legislation to implement regional funds. The recently restructured Wojewòdstwo meet EU's political needs but it is not clear if they are able to meet the administrative demands. The EU criticises that Poland's regional policy is still conceptual and makes clear that this is a major factor for accession as the following quote shows "efforts need to be accelerated if Poland is to be ready for participation". 29

Also Slovakia is behind with it's regional policy, but introduced regional units which meet political as well as administrative demands. Except of this the government in Bratislava has made no progress in adopting legislation and institutions for regional and structural funds. The Commission forces the government to make this to its short term priorities.30 In my opinion the Commission emphasises this point very strong, to be sure that the financial help of 1.000 millions euro for each applicant from 2000 on, is used in a way the EU imagines it.

2.3.4 Justice and home affairs

Slovakia and Poland had totally different ,,starting points" at the beginning of 1998 as far as internal policy is concerned. That is the reason why in this part of the report the Commission evaluates completely different matters and programmes. It seems that Slovakia has done much more in this field than Poland. The latter is criticised for ,,only very modest progress in terms of legislative efforts over the last year ... The internal organisations of the law enforcement bodies and judiciary requires considerable improvement"31 . There still exist major problems with crime, which increased by 9% in 199832 . Organised crime statistics are very poor, international co-operation with the Polish police is difficult due to lengthy procedures, inefficiency and lack of transparency in decision-making. There are severe problems connected with staff - it is almost impossible to attract qualified applicants (mainly because of poor salaries and working conditions).

On the contrary, the Commission's opinion in the Slovakia's progress appears to be quite positive - ,,... justice and home affairs is considered as a priority and efforts are being made in this area ..."33 Obviously additional work needs to be done, especially on amendments to the Aliens' Act and asylum legislation.

2.3.5 General Evaluation

Reading the general evaluation of the progress made in the legal approximation by Poland and Slovakia it is necessary to take into consideration that the year 1998 was a turning point for Slovaks. It had not been before then when they truly started to adopt their legislation to the EU standards, while Poland has been doing it for much longer period of time. That is why one should not be surprised by such a contrast between the Commission's opinion on the progress of both countries in this field. ,,Slovakia has adequately addressed the political, state aid and internal market short-term Accession Partnership priorities ..."34

,, Poland has not progressed significantly in aligning further its legislation and in adapting and strengthening the structures required in a large-sized country in view of accession. In the same manner, Poland has addressed only to a limited extent the Accession Partnership short-term priorities, ... Continued efforts are needed to set up or strengthen capacities in ...state aid, agriculture and regional policy, social field, customs and justice and home affairs."35

This chapter shows that the Commission emphasis towards accession moved from mostly political and economic issues to legal matters. To sum up, almost nothing is working as it should be and considerable improvement is required in most fields. Nevertheless reading carefully the general evaluation for both countries final conclusion must be similar - whatever has been done, there is still an urgent need to step up the efforts in the preparation of laws and implementation and enforcement capacities.

2.4 Administrative capacity to apply the acquis

For a harmonious integration of the applicants it is necessary that they adjust their administrative structure and create the capacities to apply the acquis in its key areas. This part of the Report is very detailed and shows the Commissions effort in this area. Poland is still facing the problems deriving form the administration reform. These structural problems have to be overcome before the capacity in number and qualification can be adjusted. In public administration Poland struggles with unclear responsibilities and in some Ministries the EU mentions overstaffment and lacking staff in different departments. Main problem areas are agriculture, the lacking capacity of judiciary, enviroment and customs. The technical equipment is, especially in finance areas not sufficient to cope the present and future demands. Progress has been made in regional development and financial control areas. There is a need to consolidate the functioning of administrative structures in a sustainable manner. Non-public institutions, consumer protection bodies, like certification bodies and certified public accountants, in a limited number or in case of the first with limited state aid.36

In comparison to Poland ,,Slovakia had made little progress in developing the necessary administrative and legislative capacity to adopt the acquis. Civil service legislation has been delayed, progress in judicial reform has been limited and recommendations in the Opinion to reform, strengthen and establish new institutions in the internal market area have not been followed up". However the administrative capacity and environment areas did not receive sufficient attention.37

In conclusion it must be said what is worth in Poland is even more worth in Slovakia, because of Poland's many activities to overcome the situation. It seems to be that both governments in the last years paid to little attention to reforms in these areas. In both countries more efforts are needed, also without the accession in EU, because the overboarding red tape in both countries is regulating the economy to much and many recourses are wasted by the bureaucracy.

3 Conclusion

The criteria for membership are of very different in their nature. Their measurement differs from quantitative measurable like the EMU criterion to yes/no assessment like the implementation of EU-law regarding the Single Market. In other cases like existence of free market economy or political criteria there is left a wide field of interpretation. In case of the administrative capacity the Commission gives no target to be reached, it only gives quite subjective evaluations. As a conclusion of this it must be stated that a criterion is met if it is regarded as met or in other words it is above all a pure political decision. The application countries are dependent of the political will of the Commission and the EU members and their skills in the negotiation process. From the Opinion (Zero-Report) in the Agenda 2000 to the Second Progression Report the emphasis changed from the first two main criteria to the latter in which the candidates seem to be even more behind. Hence it is understandable that the date of a possible accession is moves into the future.

Comparing the Reports of Poland and Slovakia show to major differences. First regarding Poland the evaluation is about Poland's ability to become a member in the close future whereas for Slovakia the progress towards to state Poland or Hungary are in now is assessed. Second the report also shows in its formulations and conclusion highly political motivation whereas Poland (even more Czechs Republic) gets the stick for reluctance in activities, Slovakia gets the carrot for its political changes.

Nevertheless the Reports play an important role for the accession process. They give the governments and also the public via the media an idea what is important to undertake in short and medium term. The very close observation of changes in many different levels of societies development shows the major fields the EU is concerned about and in some chapters the Report gives suggestions how to overcome it. Regarding this aspects I have three doubts. First the government can blame the EU for negative effects and unpopular decisions, which has negative effect in the public opinion to join the EU, as the last Polish polls show. Second the elites and the public of a country could see their own countries kept in Brussels leading strings. For countries with quite little political and economic consensus like Slovakia this can be counterproductive and foster euro-sceptic or euro-phobe movements. Regarding the most serious problems like Poland's rural development and agriculture, the measures suggested in the Report do not show a way out of the dilemma, they rather describe the vicious circle. Also some criteria seem for me to be in a conflict of reaching a goal. The strong austerity policy of Slovenia and Estonia had quite negative effect on the macroeconomics. In conclusion it must be said that the Reports may not be a satisfying source to value the criteria and to compare the candidates progress, but it is most valuable source of information about the accession process.

4 Annex

4.1 Bibliography

European Commission; 1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Poland's progress towards accession; (http:// www.europa.eu.int); 1999; Bruxelles/Brussel Frank Altmann, Dr. Mario von Baratta, Dr. Wolf-Rüdiger Baumann, Der Fischer Weltalmanach 2000; 1999; Frankfurt/Main;

European Commission; 1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Slovakia's progress towards accession; (http:// www.europa.eu.int); 1999; Bruxelles/Brussel; Reuters; EU Set To Mark Progress On EMU Terms With Hopefuls; in: Centraleurope (http//: www.centraleurope.com), 04/12/99; Washington/DC

4.2 Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt


1 Frank Altmann, Dr. Mario von Baratta, Dr. Wolf-Rüdiger Baumann, Der Fischer Weltalmanach 2000; 1999; Frankfurt/Main; p. 1043, translated by the author

2 European Commission; 1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Slovakia's progress towards accession; (http:// www.europa.eu.int); 1999; Bruxelles/Brussel; p. 25

3 ibid.; p. 3

4 ibid.; p. 52

5 ibid.; p. 4

6 European Commission; 1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Poland's progress towards accession; (http:// www.europa.eu.int); 1999; Bruxelles/Brussel; p. 4-5

7 Poland's Report; p. 11-14

8 Slovakia's Report; p. 9-12

9 Poland's Report; p. 16

10 Slovakia's Report; p. 15

11 ibid.; p. 9

12 Poland's Report; p. 14-16

13 Slovakia's Report; p. 13-15

14 Altmann; p. 1045; translation by the author

15 Poland's Report; p. 17

16 Poland's; Report; p. 17-20

17 Slovakia's Report; p. 23

18 ibid.; p. 18-20

19 Reuters; EU Set To Mark Progress On EMU Terms With Hopefuls; in: Centraleurope (http//: www.centraleurope.com), 04/12/99; Washington/DC

20 Poland's Report; p. 20

21 Slovakia's Report; p.20 - 22

22 Poland's Report; p. 22-24

23 Slovakia's Report; p. 21-24

24 Poland's Report; p. 38

25 Poland's Report; p. 25-30

26 Slovakia's Report; p. 25-28

27 Poland's Report; p. 34-35

28 Slovakia's Report; p. 32

29 Poland's Report; p. 43

30 Slovakia's Report; p. 39-40

31 Poland's Report; p. 62

32 Poland's Report; p. 60

33 Slovakia's Report; p. 58

34 Slovakia's Report; p. 61

35 Poland's Report; p. 66

36 Poland's Report; p. 58-63

37 Slovakia's Report; p. 48-53

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What is the EU Criteria for Ascension? A Comparison of Progress Reports for Poland and Slovakia (1999)
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