Enlarging Ireland

The government’s stat­ed posi­tion is that “the acces­sion process pro­vides strong encour­age­ment for polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic reform and that future enlarge­ment will help to pro­mote sta­bil­i­ty, secu­ri­ty and pros­per­i­ty in Europe.”11Dáil writ­ten answers: Tues­day, 15 Decem­ber 2009. Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2009–12-15.1541.0 (last access: 10 May 2010). While the acces­sion of ten new mem­ber states in 2004 was greet­ed with great fan­fare and cel­e­bra­tion in Ire­land, there is also a keen aware­ness that enlarge­ment cre­ates greater com­pe­ti­tion for for­eign invest­ment, which has been a key dri­ver of Irish eco­nom­ic growth in recent years.22Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment – Ire­land Lead­ing the Way, avail­able at: www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=28462 (last access: 10 May 2010). The fact that the new­er mem­ber states are clos­er to the main EU mar­kets and have low­er labour costs has already dam­aged Irish inter­ests as major multi­na­tion­als shift their man­u­fac­tur­ing oper­a­tions from Ire­land to Poland and else­where.33See for exam­ple this state­ment from Dell: Dell to Migrate Man­u­fac­tur­ing Oper­a­tions from Ire­land to Poland and Part­ners by Ear­ly 2010, avail­able at: http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/pressoffice/en/2009/2009_01_08_rr_000?c=us&l=en (last access: 10 May 2010). This aware­ness is some­what bal­anced by the knowl­edge that Ire­land ben­e­fit­ed great­ly from the labour and skills pool of the new mem­ber states dur­ing its recent boom and that fur­ther east­ward expan­sion pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty to diver­si­fy its trade pat­terns in an enlarged Euro­pean sin­gle mar­ket. But, in a cli­mate of eco­nom­ic reces­sion and renewed emi­gra­tion, a degree of scep­ti­cism about the ben­e­fits of fur­ther enlarge­ment is like­ly to remain.

Croa­t­ian acces­sion is like­ly to prove unprob­lem­at­ic from an Irish per­spec­tive. How­ev­er, key issues – such as the abil­i­ty of Alba­nia, Bosnia, Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro to meet the acces­sion require­ments, the sta­tus of Koso­vo, the ongo­ing name dis­pute between Greece and the For­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia, and unre­solved ten­sions between Cyprus and Turkey – rep­re­sent obsta­cles which must be over­come before fur­ther east­ern expan­sion is like­ly to be whole­heart­ed­ly wel­comed from an Irish per­spec­tive. Assum­ing a res­o­lu­tion of the name dis­pute, Mace­don­ian acces­sion will prob­a­bly pass with lit­tle com­ment from Irish sources. Turk­ish mem­ber­ship, for the same rea­sons that are famil­iar across Europe, might prove a hard­er sell, though the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs describes Ireland’s approach to Turkey’s can­di­da­cy as “sup­port­ive”. He also notes that there are “poten­tial gains to the sin­gle mar­ket and to trade through the acces­sion of a coun­try of Turkey’s size” and that “[t]he Union’s reach and influ­ence in the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia could be enhanced through Turk­ish acces­sion”.44Dáil writ­ten answers: Tues­day, 30 March 2010. Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2010–03-30.696.0 (last access: 10 May 2010). The prospect of Turk­ish acces­sion was raised in a neg­a­tive light dur­ing the two Lis­bon ref­er­en­dums, but it is not clear what effect, if any, this neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing had on vot­ing patterns.

Per­haps because of Ireland’s geo­graph­ic loca­tion in the north-west­ern cor­ner of Europe, Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy and the Euro-Mediter­ranean Part­ner­ship have not gained much trac­tion in the pub­lic dis­course. How­ev­er, an increas­ing aware­ness of the impor­tance of Europe’s east­ern and south­ern neigh­bour­hood, par­tic­u­lar­ly in terms of ener­gy secu­ri­ty, is begin­ning to raise the pro­file of these ini­tia­tives. Strong bilat­er­al rela­tion­ships with Moldo­va and Geor­gia also play a sig­nif­i­cant role in terms of per­cep­tions of devel­op­ments in frozen conflicts.

There is much gen­er­al sym­pa­thy in Ire­land for Iceland’s dif­fi­cul­ties and in bilat­er­al con­tacts the Irish gov­ern­ment has told the gov­ern­ment of Ice­land that it is sup­port­ive of its appli­ca­tion for EU mem­ber­ship.55Dáil writ­ten answers: Tues­day, 22 Sep­tem­ber 2009. Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2009–09-22.1244.0 (last access: 10 May 2010).

Because Ire­land has had, on bal­ance, a gen­er­al­ly pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence with migra­tion from East­ern Europe, and with the inte­gra­tion of com­mu­ni­ties of “New Irish”, there is lit­tle objec­tion in prin­ci­ple to Euro­pean enlarge­ment to encom­pass many of the for­mer Balkan and Baltic states. How­ev­er, what will be looked for, espe­cial­ly in the wake of the Greek debt cri­sis with its con­ta­gion effects for Ire­land, is sol­id evi­dence of each can­di­date country’s fis­cal sol­ven­cy and polit­i­cal stability.

The next Irish gen­er­al elec­tion must take place by 2012 at the lat­est. It is dif­fi­cult to say if immi­gra­tion will become an issue in that con­test, but, as has been the case else­where in Europe, we can antic­i­pate that, at some stage, the issue will become more politi­cised, with con­se­quent effects for how the prospect of fur­ther enlarge­ment is viewed. How­ev­er, as many Euro­pean immi­grants have returned home in response to the Irish reces­sion, the poten­tial neg­a­tive employ­ment effects of immi­gra­tion have been mut­ed up to now.

    Footnotes

  • 1Dáil writ­ten answers: Tues­day, 15 Decem­ber 2009. Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2009–12-15.1541.0 (last access: 10 May 2010).
  • 2Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment – Ire­land Lead­ing the Way, avail­able at: www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=28462 (last access: 10 May 2010).
  • 3See for exam­ple this state­ment from Dell: Dell to Migrate Man­u­fac­tur­ing Oper­a­tions from Ire­land to Poland and Part­ners by Ear­ly 2010, avail­able at: http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/corp/pressoffice/en/2009/2009_01_08_rr_000?c=us&l=en (last access: 10 May 2010).
  • 4Dáil writ­ten answers: Tues­day, 30 March 2010. Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2010–03-30.696.0 (last access: 10 May 2010).
  • 5Dáil writ­ten answers: Tues­day, 22 Sep­tem­ber 2009. Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs: EU Enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://www.kildarestreet.com/wrans/?id=2009–09-22.1244.0 (last access: 10 May 2010).

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.