Austrian perspectives on EU enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy

Giv­en the changes brought about by the enter­ing into force of the Lis­bon Treaty and the reper­cus­sions of the Greek finan­cial cri­sis, nei­ther the enlarge­ment issue nor the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy were paid much atten­tion to in the report­ing peri­od. Nev­er­the­less, from an Aus­tri­an point of view, the can­di­dates most like­ly to join the EU in the next enlarge­ment round are Croa­t­ia and Ice­land. Croatia’s admis­sion is strong­ly sup­port­ed by the Aus­tri­an gov­ern­ment. For­eign Min­is­ter Spin­de­leg­ger assert­ed that the wait­ing-room pol­i­cy vis-à-vis the West­ern Balkan coun­tries had to be end­ EU muss “auf Schiene bleiben”, 14 May 2010 (last access: 19 May 2010). Even though cer­tain coun­tries could not recog­nise any ben­e­fits in West­ern Balkan coun­tries join­ing the EU, the Union should stick to its plans irre­spec­tive of the cur­rent prob­lems, the For­eign Min­is­ter added. He also empha­sised the impor­tance of coun­tries like Ser­bia, Bosnia-Herze­gov­ina and Croa­t­ia for Aus­tri­an invest­ment and trade. Except for the lat­ter, how­ev­er, the inclu­sion of the West­ern Balkan coun­tries was expect­ed to be com­plet­ed by 2020, Spin­de­leg­ger argued.22Der Stan­dard, 21 Jan­u­ary 2010. Spin­de­leg­ger also stat­ed that Aus­tria would assist these coun­tries in the process of EU approx­i­ma­tion. Since Croa­t­ia reached an agree­ment with Slove­nia to refer the bor­der dis­pute to an inter­na­tion­al court and the Com­mis­sion offered the view that acces­sion talks could be finalised in 2011, the coun­try is antic­i­pat­ed to join the Union by 2012.33Der Stan­dard, 14 Octo­ber 2009; Der Stan­dard, 8 Novem­ber 2009. From the point of view of Andreas Mölz­er, a Mem­ber of Euro­pean Par­lia­ment from the Aus­tri­an Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ) – a par­ty which usu­al­ly has strong reser­va­tions about EU enlarge­ment – nei­ther the bor­der prob­lems with Slove­nia, nor any lack of coop­er­a­tion with the tri­bunal in The Hague should be allowed to fur­ther delay Croatia’s admis­sion to the Union.44Frei­heitlich­er Par­la­mentsklub: Mölz­er: EU-Beitrittsver­hand­lun­gen mit Kroa­t­ien so rasch wie möglich abschließen!, 5 May 2010 (last access: 19 May 2010). Croatia’s inclu­sion is also strong­ly sup­port­ed by the Aus­tri­an Fed­er­al Eco­nom­ic Cham­ber (WKO). Croatia’s quick inclu­sion in the Union would be good for both Aus­tria and Croa­t­ia, the Pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber, Christoph Leitl, claimed.55WKO: EU Panora­ma, 16 Octo­ber 2009 (last access: 22 May 2010). With regard to Ice­land, giv­en pos­i­tive sig­nals from Brus­sels, it is expect­ed to join in 2013.66Der Stan­dard, 24 Feb­ru­ary 2010. The country’s acces­sion process does not attract much atten­tion and is almost tak­en for grant­ed. Even for the afore­men­tioned FPÖ, Iceland’s acces­sion does not con­sti­tute any obvi­ous prob­lems. There­fore, in the view of Mölz­er, Iceland’s acces­sion could pro­ceed quick­ly as the coun­try is Euro­pean and meets EU stan­dards.77Frei­heitlich­er Par­la­mentsklub: Mölz­er: EU-Beitrittskan­di­dat­en dür­fen nicht alle in einen Topf gewor­fen wer­den!, 23 Novem­ber 2009 (last access: 18 May 2010). Except for some prob­lems relat­ed to the issue of fish­eries, there are no stum­bling blocks, Mölz­er argued. How­ev­er, accord­ing to a report by the dai­ly Der Stan­dard, Ice­land is con­front­ed with finan­cial claims by the Unit­ed King­dom and the Nether­lands as both had to com­pen­sate investors who lost their mon­ey when the bank­ing sys­tem in Ice­land crashed. There­fore, Iceland’s response to these claims is expect­ed to affect its mem­ber­ship prospects.

A can­di­date coun­try that is not going to join the Union dur­ing the next enlarge­ment round is obvi­ous­ly Turkey. Almost all polit­i­cal par­ties seem to have reser­va­tions against Turk­ish mem­ber­ship or cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly oppose it. Only the Greens seem to sup­port Turk­ish acces­sion to the Union – yet, inso­far as Turkey ful­fils the Copen­hagen cri­te­ria, and only after the social, eco­log­i­cal and demo­c­ra­t­ic inte­gra­tion of exist­ing mem­bers has pro­ceed­ed to high­er lev­els.88Die Grü­nen: Türkei: EU-Beitrittsver­hand­lun­gen (last access: 23 May 2010). More­over, from the Greens’ point of view, the coun­tries of South­east Europe have to be giv­en pri­or­i­ty in the enlarge­ment process. The coali­tion gov­ern­ment, com­pris­ing the Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the People’s Par­ty, is in favour of nego­ti­a­tions with an open end and empha­sis­es the prospect of a ref­er­en­dum on the issue should the nego­ti­a­tions be finalised.99Bun­deskan­zler­amt: Regierung­spro­gramm für die XXIV Geset­zge­bungspe­ri­ode, 2 Decem­ber 2008 (last access: 18 May 2010). How­ev­er, their posi­tion is to some extent ambigu­ous, oscil­lat­ing between a con­di­tion­al “Yes” and a veiled “No”.1010As the dai­ly Der Stan­dard report­ed, dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, Ernst Strass­er from the People’s Par­ty, for exam­ple, called for abort­ing the nego­ti­a­tions. See Der Stan­dard, 22 May 2009. As for the Free­dom Par­ty and the Alliance for the Future of Aus­tria, both par­ties cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly oppose Turk­ish mem­ber­ship. Andreas Mölz­er from the Free­dom Par­ty reit­er­at­ed in April 2010 that nego­ti­a­tions with Turkey should be stopped imme­di­ate­ly say­ing that Turk­ish mem­ber­ship would pose a threat to the Chris­t­ian-occi­den­tal cul­ture of Europe.1111Frei­heitlich­er Par­la­mentsklub: Mölz­er: Türkeibeitritt wäre Bedro­hung für christlich-abendländis­che Kul­tur Europas, 7 April 2010 (last access: 22 May 2010). It is also worth men­tion­ing that Aus­tri­ans are gen­er­al­ly known for their enlarge­ment scep­ti­cism. Euro­barom­e­ter polls con­duct­ed in the peri­od from 27 Octo­ber 2009 to 13 Novem­ber 2009 showed, for exam­ple, that only 28 per­cent of the pub­lic sup­port­ed fur­ther enlarge­ment while 65 per­cent opposed the idea.1212Europäis­che Kom­mis­sion: Euro­barom­e­ter 72. Herb­st 2009, Nationaler Bericht Öster­re­ich (last access: 28 May 2010).

In the report­ing peri­od, the Union for the Mediter­ranean (UfM) and the East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP) bare­ly attract­ed any media cov­er­age at all. Except for brief ref­er­ences to the dif­fi­cul­ties Spain had in organ­is­ing the next sum­mit due to the refusal of Arab coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in a con­fer­ence where Israeli For­eign Min­is­ter Lieber­man would also be present and the announce­ment that the sum­mit had final­ly been post­poned, there were no debates or elab­o­ra­tions on sub­stance of the UfM.1313Die Presse, 11 May 2010; Die Presse, 21 May 2010. As for the East­ern Part­ner­ship, even though there were no explic­it ref­er­ences to the strat­e­gy as such, it is known that the Danube and Black Sea regions con­sti­tute core areas of inter­est to For­eign Min­is­ter Spin­de­leg­ger. Dur­ing a speech held in Jan­u­ary 2010, Spin­de­leg­ger reit­er­at­ed the impor­tance of both regions for Aus­tria and Europe and main­tained that due to an Aus­tri­an-Roman­ian co-ini­tia­tive, the EU Com­mis­sion was work­ing on an EU Strat­e­gy for the Danube Region, which would be pre­sent­ed at the end of 2010.1414Bun­desmin­is­teri­um für europäis­che und inter­na­tionale Angele­gen­heit­en (BmeiA): Rede von Bun­desmin­is­ter Dr. Michael Spin­de­leg­ger zu den Schw­er­punk­ten der öster­re­ichis­chen EU-Poli­tik, 21 Jan­u­ary 2010 (last access: 15 May 2010). Spin­de­leg­ger also point­ed to the impor­tance of the Black Sea region, espe­cial­ly for invest­ment and ener­gy security.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.