Enlargement of the EU is primarily a political and not an economic project. Discuss.

Essay, 2002
10 Pages, Grade: ECTS-grade B = 2


‘Enlargement of the EU is primarily

a political and not an economic project’.


1. Introduction

The posed question comprises three different issues which have to be investigated. To answer the question properly you have to fragment the project of enlargement and analyse enlargement in terms of reasons and motives for it, problems in the forefront of it and gains and losses caused by it. Investigating these issues I will argue that enlargement is primarily a political rather than an economic project. This does not mean that economy is not an important factor in the process of enlargement, but that the political factors prevail.

To support my argument, due to topicality, I mainly want to examine the current process of Eastern enlargement as an example for enlargement of the EU in overall terms. I first want to work out the motives and reasons which have to be given to make enlargement happen at all. I will raise the question of why enlargement is so important for the EU and why it consistently exposes itself to the problems of this change instead of remaining as it is. I will then refer to the problems which erupt in the process of enlarging the EU, and will investigate the requirements for enlargement concerning both member states and candidate countries. As a third subject I want to refer to the gains and losses implicated in enlargement. In this regard, I want to look at both immediate consequences of enlargement for the member states and other outcomes in terms of the future perspective of the EU as a political actor all over the world. Finally, I will sum up my results and explain, why especially the question of enlargement requires careful political decisions.

2. The discussion

2.1. Motives and reasons for enlargement

The enlargement of the EU with ten countries belonging to Middle and Eastern Europe constitutes an enormous challenge and at the same time chance for both the EU and the candidate countries. This applies to the quality and effectiveness of the EU’s political process in general as well as to separate fields of politics as they incorporate economic, social, fiscal and environmental policies. The Eastern enlargement of the EU will lead to far-reaching shifts concerning the overall development of the EU. Nevertheless, it will entail not only gains but also extensive problems. So why is enlargement pressed forward by the EU? Are there mainly political or economic motives, which could call into account for the will of enlargement of the EU?

The priority of enlargement has its roots in the 1950s, when the founders of the EU “pursued the goal of an all-European family of nations that would become even more closely knit” (Pflueger, 2001, p. 30). Hence, enlargement of the EU has become a “political imperative” (Krenzler/Smith, 1999, p. 1) to fulfil the task, which began in the early times of the EU. To pull it together with Monnet’s spill-over effect within the neo-functionalist approach, Avery and Cameron argue that “enlargement can actually speed up the process of integration, cohesion, and convergence in the Union” (Avery/Cameron, 2001, p. 175). This means, that the processes of widening and deepening do not preclude each other. Quite the contrary: as history shows, “major deepening initiatives are usually clustered around enlargement” (Preston, 1997, p. 155, see also Avery/Cameron for examples, 2001, p. 175).

In geopolitical terms, European integration in general “always sought to end the division of the continent” (Sedelmeier/Wallace, 2000, p. 432). In the case of Greece, Spain and Portugal, the significant motive for enlargement has already been the establishment of a stable democratic system after a totalitarian regime. Regarding the Eastern enlargement, one can detect even an augmentation of this general duty. Due to historical reasons, the EU feels a special responsibility for the Eastern countries now applying for membership. People in Eastern Europe were among the first victims of World War II who had to suffer a lot from Nazi-Germany and Stalinism (Pflueger, 2000, p. 32). So van der Pas asks the question: “Could the EU throw away the historic opportunity […] by telling the CEE countries: Congratulations for having thrown out communism – but there is no place for you in the EU” (van der Pas, 2000, p. 67). Pflueger also points out that the chance to get a member of the EU made Eastern European states “resolve most of their border disputes, rivalries and minority problems in recent years” (Pflueger, 2000, p. 33). As is evident, the possibility of enlargement contributes to stability and peace throughout Europe. Hence, concerning the issue of motives for enlargement in general, and especially Eastern enlargement, one can find only political reasons – the duty to fulfil a initiated task and historical responsibility – but hardly any economic motives. To say it in the words of Pilip: “The dynamics of the EU have been based not only on its efforts to improve the economic performance of the community […] but also on a more comprehensive vision whose aims has been to reinforce co-operation in Europe and to accentuate traditional philosophical and cultural values.” (Pilip, 2000, p. 49).


Excerpt out of 10 pages


Enlargement of the EU is primarily a political and not an economic project. Discuss.
University of Leeds  (Insitute for Politics and International Studies)
Controversies in European Integration
ECTS-grade B = 2
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
398 KB
Europäische Integration, Erweiterung, Internationale Politik
Quote paper
Anne Uhlhaas (Author), 2002, Enlargement of the EU is primarily a political and not an economic project. Discuss., Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/11517


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