On biased negotiations, Balkan stereotypes and Arctic potential

Dur­ing the report­ing peri­od, a con­flict between the offi­cial pol­i­cy of Fin­land and pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment in the coun­try towards EU enlarge­ment could be detect­ed. The gov­ern­ment held that enlarge­ment ben­e­fit­ed Fin­land polit­i­cal­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly, and lay at the core of its EU pol­i­cy. More specif­i­cal­ly, “Fin­land sup­ports the mem­ber­ship nego­ti­a­tions of Turkey and Croa­t­ia and the West­ern Balka­ns’ clos­er prox­im­i­ty to the EU.”11Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs of Fin­land: EU enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://formin.finland.fi/public/default.aspx?nodeid=15624&contentlan=1&culture=fi-FI (last access: 19 May 2010). At the same time, accord­ing to a Euro­barom­e­ter sur­vey con­duct­ed in autumn 2009, a major­i­ty (55 per­cent) of Finns were against enlarge­ment of the EU in the com­ing years. Although two out of five (40 per­cent) were in favour of enlarge­ment, Finns are some­what more reserved on this than EU cit­i­zens on aver­age. Accord­ing to the sur­vey, the cau­tious­ness of Finns can be explained by the fact that a great major­i­ty feel that the EU has grown too quick­ly. How­ev­er, judg­ing from the Finnish press cov­er­age, a more real­is­tic expla­na­tion might be that, apart from Ice­land, the can­di­date coun­tries remain dis­tant and unknown to Finns, and this caus­es uncer­tain­ty and some reser­va­tions. Also, min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el vis­its con­cen­trat­ed on Finland’s neigh­bour­ing area, with even the Prime Minister’s office admit­ting that the Mediter­ranean region and some new mem­ber states were being neglect­ed.22Suomen­maa: Suo­ma­lais­min­is­tere­itä eivät kiin­nos­ta vierailut Välimeren mais­sa, 17 Decem­ber 2010.

Iceland’s EU mem­ber­ship was large­ly per­ceived as an open-and-shut affair, and, as such, sep­a­rate from oth­er cur­rent and await­ing appli­ca­tions. Indeed, com­par­isons with Bul­gar­ia and Greece were made to argue that the EU cri­te­ria for mem­ber­ship favours some states over oth­ers; Ice­land, the dai­ly news­pa­per Helsin­gin Sanomat wrote in its main edi­to­r­i­al, already imple­ments EU leg­is­la­tion bet­ter than, for exam­ple, the afore­men­tioned mem­ber states.33Helsin­gin Sanomat: Ice­save-kiista pois Islannin EU-tieltä, 26 Feb­ru­ary 2010. Ice­land was expect­ed to become a mem­ber of the EU in the next enlarge­ment round, notwith­stand­ing its eco­nom­ic tur­moil and the Ice­save dis­pute with the Unit­ed King­dom and the Nether­lands. For­eign Min­is­ter Stubb believed that Croa­t­ia is already almost at the fin­ish­ing line. He also envis­aged that mem­ber­ship nego­ti­a­tions with the For­mer Yugoslav Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia could be opened this year. Refer­ring to Turkey, Stubb strong­ly empha­sised that the EU must treat all appli­cants equal­ly and keep its promis­es.44Turun Sanomat: Kroa­t­ian kanssa läh­estytään maalivi­ivaa – Turkin EU-jäsenyy­delle entistä tiukem­mat ehdot, 9 Decem­ber 2010.

Report­ing on the EU prospects of the Balkan can­di­date coun­tries fluc­tu­at­ed between inform­ing the read­ers about the large­ly unknown coun­tries and rein­forc­ing pre-exist­ing stereo­types of the region being a “pow­der keg”, where, in the words of Aamule­hti jour­nal­ist Veikko Vuorikos­ki, “the bur­den of his­to­ry pre­vents the coun­tries from becom­ing ful­ly-fledged mem­bers of the Euro­pean fam­i­ly.”55Aamule­hti: Enem­män kuin pien­tä laiton tarvet­ta, 12 Feb­ru­ary 2010. Indeed, report­ing tend­ed to lean towards the neg­a­tive, with Ser­bia only brought up to praise the EU for forc­ing the Ser­bian par­lia­ment to pub­licly con­demn Sre­breni­ca and to sug­gest that visa free­dom for Serbs, Mon­tene­grins and Mace­do­nians has caused a wave of Alba­ni­ans to arrive in the EU.66Helsin­gin Sanomat: Ser­bia lähet­ti viestin Brys­seli­in, 2 April 2010; Helsin­gin Sanomat: Viisum­i­va­paus aiheut­ti albaanien vyöryn EU:hun, 3 March 2010. Turkey’s role as a sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy sup­pli­er to the EU was men­tioned, as was Moldova’s frus­tra­tion with its slow progress towards EU mem­ber­ship.77Helsin­gin Sanomat: Turk­ki halu­aa ener­giamahdik­si, 2 April 2010; Turun Sanomat: Moldo­va turhau­tui EU-tien hitau­teen, 6 April 2010.

Part­ly over­lap­ping with the debate on the prospec­tive mem­ber states is the dis­cus­sion on Finland’s poten­tial to become a flag bear­er in the EU’s Arc­tic pol­i­cy, which has gained promi­nence. At the end of 2009, the par­lia­men­tary for­eign affairs com­mit­tee held a ses­sion on the rela­tions between Fin­land and the Arc­tic region, con­clud­ing that it is impor­tant for Fin­land to pro­file itself as an Arc­tic and North­ern state in order to reap all the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits that the region has to offer. This sen­ti­ment is shared by researchers.88Lot­ta Num­mi­nen: Jäämeren suo­jelu vaatii uut­ta hallintat­a­paa, Helsin­gin Sanomat, 6 April 2010. In a news­pa­per col­umn, Social Demo­c­rat Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Liisa Jaakon­saari empha­sised that envi­ron­men­tal and secu­ri­ty issues, togeth­er with the liv­ing con­di­tions of indige­nous peo­ple, must be tak­en ful­ly into account when plan­ning Finland’s poli­cies towards the Arc­tic.99Kale­va: Aukaiseeko Ash­ton ark­tisen aar­rear­kun, 2 March 2010.

    Footnotes

  • 1Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs of Fin­land: EU enlarge­ment, avail­able at: http://formin.finland.fi/public/default.aspx?nodeid=15624&contentlan=1&culture=fi-FI (last access: 19 May 2010).
  • 2Suomen­maa: Suo­ma­lais­min­is­tere­itä eivät kiin­nos­ta vierailut Välimeren mais­sa, 17 Decem­ber 2010.
  • 3Helsin­gin Sanomat: Ice­save-kiista pois Islannin EU-tieltä, 26 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 4Turun Sanomat: Kroa­t­ian kanssa läh­estytään maalivi­ivaa – Turkin EU-jäsenyy­delle entistä tiukem­mat ehdot, 9 Decem­ber 2010.
  • 5Aamule­hti: Enem­män kuin pien­tä laiton tarvet­ta, 12 Feb­ru­ary 2010.
  • 6Helsin­gin Sanomat: Ser­bia lähet­ti viestin Brys­seli­in, 2 April 2010; Helsin­gin Sanomat: Viisum­i­va­paus aiheut­ti albaanien vyöryn EU:hun, 3 March 2010.
  • 7Helsin­gin Sanomat: Turk­ki halu­aa ener­giamahdik­si, 2 April 2010; Turun Sanomat: Moldo­va turhau­tui EU-tien hitau­teen, 6 April 2010.
  • 8Lot­ta Num­mi­nen: Jäämeren suo­jelu vaatii uut­ta hallintat­a­paa, Helsin­gin Sanomat, 6 April 2010.
  • 9Kale­va: Aukaiseeko Ash­ton ark­tisen aar­rear­kun, 2 March 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.