EUROPEAN UNION ENLARGEMENT
1 Critics who say the European Union has been tipped into inaction by the euro crisis are mistaken. Despite it, policymaking in such areas as competition, energy, the single market and telecoms carries on. And on July 1st the club will admit its 28th member, Croatia.
2 To many this means that the western Balkans must eventually join the club, so membership talks continue with Montenegro and will open next year with Serbia. But further negotiations with Turkey, already almost frozen, have at German insistence been put off until October, because of the Turks' crackdown on protesters. And nobody even raises the possible accession of Moldova, Ukraine or the Caucasus.
3 This is a mistake. Enlargement has been the EU's most successful policy by far. The hope of
membership was crucial in fostering and smoothing the transition to democracy, first in Greece, Spain and Portugal and later across large parts of eastern Europe. The lure of joining the rich democrats' club led countries into social and constitutional reform and persuaded them to free statist economies. The results benefited not just new members, but existing ones, too.
4 Those who oppose further enlargement offer several arguments. The EU club is already too large to function well, they say, and is anyway in too big a mess to afford new distractions. Some countries were let in before their institutions were sufficiently developed (Romania and Bulgaria in 2007), or with unresolved territorial disputes (Cyprus, 2004). Hungary (also 2004) has regressed in its democracy. Others, like Turkey, are not really European at all. Public opinion is against more expansion, partly because of rising resistance to large-scale immigration. Potential candidates from the east are too big (Ukraine), too poor (Moldova), too Muslim (Turkey again), too autocratic (Azerbaijan)-or some combination of the above.
5 Yet all these points have answers. Decision-making has not suffered from enlargement: policy squabbles are mostly among older members, not between old and new. Romania and Bulgaria may indeed have joined too soon, but the admission criteria have been toughened since they signed up. Countries with frozen conflicts should be told to resolve them before they join and not after. Hungary is being pressured back into line albeit with difficulty. Turkey was accepted as a European country at least as far back as 1963, when it signed an association agreement.
6 Clearly, people in the EU are worried about immigration. But it will be decades before many of these countries can join, and even then they will have long, potentially unlimited, transition periods before enjoying full free movement of labour. Size, poverty and religion have never stood in the way of membership and should not suddenly become obstacles now. Democracy and the rule of law remain fundamental requirements for the EU-indeed, this is precisely what gives it such powerfull everage over would-be members.
Adapted from The Economist, lune 29'h, 2013
ln paragraph 1, "it" in the phrase "Despite it ... " most likely refers to which af the following?
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