EU; ‘Mixed Opinions’ About Where Countries Stand – and Future New Members

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MEPs will discuss the European Union aspirations of Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey on Wednesday 10 February. The Foreign Affairs Committee has given a mixed opinion on where the countries stand and we asked Parliament’s followers on Facebook what they think. Read on to find out more and check out the photo slideshow.

Croatia: must combat corruption

The Committee believes negotiations with Croatia can be concluded in 2010, but it must strengthen public administration, reform the judiciary, combat corruption and organised crime, ensure sustainable refugee return and provide access to documents for use in war crimes trials in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague.

Parliament’s rapporteur Hannes Swoboda told us, “the main obstacles to Croatia’s accession are the fight against corruption and reform of its justice system. The main effort must be stronger cooperation with the ICTY. Croatia has to continue the search of the documents concerning operation ‘Storm’ of 1995.”

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: name issue should be solved

The committee found that negotiations with The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could begin “in the near future”. Issues to focus on include reform of the public administration and judiciary, the fight against corruption and the improvement of  women’s rights and inter-ethnic relations

In addition, it must “redouble efforts to find a mutually satisfactory solution to the name issue” with Greece.

Slovenian Socialist Zoran Thaler told us that “the biggest obstacle in the way to accession is the lack of regional responsibility and an understanding of how important good neighbourly relations are.”

Turkey: “Involvement of civil society” needed

Turkey was criticised for having made only “limited progress”. It should better implement existing legislation on women’s rights, non-discrimination, freedom of religion/thought/speech/expression, zero tolerance of torture and the fight against corruption and  contribute “in concrete terms” to the settlement of the Cyprus issue.

Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten said that recent Constitutional Court rulings show a comprehensive reform of the constitution is needed to put the protection of human rights and the fundamental freedoms at the core of the Turkish State and society. “I encourage the Turkish government to resume work on that reform and I call for the cooperation of all political parties and the involvement of civil society and all minorities.”

Over 200 and counting…

Our Facebook profile was flooded with insights and strong arguments on enlargement, ranging from “aren’t we already big enough?” (Katia) and “it is too early” (Björnos) to “everyone is welcome” (Natalia). Most contributors seemed to agree that “enlargement is good thing” (Hela) and hoped that the EU “won’t close, but try to improve the cooperation between societies” (Mika). “We’d better be ready, there’s still a lot to be done, in order to practice the ideas of Erasmus, rather than those of Machiavelli” (Galina).

“As long as people do not understand that the EU is about the future (it was founded to overcome the past) and the EU itself does not know what it wants to be (a democratic federal entity or just an economic union dominated by the elites) it is too early to start any bigger enlargement projects” (Martin).

It’s all about values

EP’s fans underlined that “enlargement should be based on (common) values” (Pierre-Antoine): “All Europeans who share European values of freedom and human rights are welcome. This includes all ethnic groups. Racism, sexism, homophobia have no place and no space in the EU” (Maria).

Only fools rush in

Cybernauts think further enlargement “will take time” (Geoff) and the EU should prepare well for it: “We must take time to find the necessary balance, whether cultural, political or financial, to a successful enlargement” (Sylvie). “The EU is a wonderful political creation. Let’s not destroy it by wanting to cut corners” (Pierre-Antoine).

Some participants thought enlargement should wait until the EU sorts out its own problems “I think that it’s a bad moment to discuss enlargement. The financial crisis makes people more sensitive to changes, and many can see them as threat” (Javier).

According to Labinot, certain non-EU European countries should not “hurry or be obsessed about integrating into the EU” and should not see it as an end in itself but rather “do their homework without thinking of EU”.

Dream until your dreams come true

Where should the final frontier of the EU be drawn? Heated discussions ranged from suggestions to draw limits to enlargement to “no new Iron Curtains in Europe” (Johnny). Other wanted to bring in all the Balkans, Iceland, Norway, resolve the status of northern Cyprus, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Caucasus and even Russia – if they uphold the democratic rights of their citizens.

See how your concerns and ideas are reflected on the floor of the House. Watch the parliamentary debate live online 0830-1150 CET on Wednesday 10 February.

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