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Senate battle onEU enlargement

Published on 05/12/2003

5 December 2003

BRUSSELS – The Belgian Senate ratified the EU’s adhesion treaty within a few minutes Thursday, bringing ever closer the accession of 10 new European member states in May 2004. But not all party members were in agreement.

While Liberals and Christian Democrats such as MP Herman Van Rompuy welcomed EU enlargement as “one of the greatest political operations in Europe since the end of the war”, Socialists showed themselves more reserved on the issue.

“For the first time, Socialists are expressing doubt regarding the construction of a prosperous and cohesive Europe,” PS leader Elio Di Rupo told Le Soir.

“We’re ardent Europeans and to refuse entry to the 10 new states would be a historical error.  However, I share the anxiety of many citizens, enlargement has been badly prepared,” he said.

Flemish Socialist, SP.A’s Dirk Van der Maelen agreed, saying, “We voted for enlargement because it was agreed to in Goteborg in 2001 and an agreement is an agreement – but the 10 new states follow positions which are in diametric opposition to our vision of a federalist Europe.”

“I’m going to vote for enlargement but with lead in my shoes,” he added.

The opposition Green party has urged that the difficulty in accepting 10 new member states and reforming Europe not be put on the backs of accession countries.

Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister attempted to allay the fears of sceptics in the house, saying that the enlargement process was anchored in the heart of the European project.

“Enlargement is our moral obligation… we can’t lay claim to an exclusivity on European identity… Europe is the greatest political idea since the last century,” said Michel.

The adhesion treaty was adopted by a majority of 119 votes and 17 abstentions from the Vlaams Blok party.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Belgian news