Merkel wants pause in EU enlargement

18th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Angela Merkel’s conservatives said they favour a ‘consolidation of the European Union's values and institutions’ over further EU enlargement at this time.

Berlin -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives want a lull in EU enlargement once Croatia has become the bloc's 28th member, according to its manifesto for European elections on June 7.

Her CDU party also joined British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in supporting a second term for Jose Manuel Barroso as European Commission president, according to the programme approved by party chiefs on Monday.

"The enlargement of the EU from 15 to 27 members within a few years ... has required great efforts,” it said. “As a result the CDU prefers a phase of consolidation, during which a consolidation of the European Union's values and institutions should take priority over further EU enlargement.”

"The only exception to the rule can be for Croatia," which hopes to complete accession talks by the year's end, becoming the 28th member and the second former Yugoslav state to join after Slovenia, which entered in 2004.

Merkel said the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty must be approved by all member states and that the bloc had to "learn to live with" an EU of 28 members, according to an interview posted on the CDU's website.

Other countries in the western Balkans also had a chance of joining, but this would take "several years," she added.

"We know that stability, whether it is in Serbia, in Kosovo, in Montenegro and in other nations can only be guaranteed if they have the prospect (of joining the EU), but this will take several years," she said.

Montenegro, which split from Serbia in 2006, formally applied in December to join the EU but Germany -- backed by Belgium and the Netherlands -- is blocking the application being passed to the Commission, according to diplomats.

The situation of Serbia has been made more complex by the case of Kosovo, which has declared independence and has EU ambitions of its own. Belgrade does not recognise Kosovo's independence and EU members are split on the issue.

On Turkey, the CDU manifesto said that key criteria for joining included "freedom of speech, equality between men and women, protecting minorities and freedom of religion." "For this reason we believe that for Turkey a privileged partnership is the right solution."

The CDU has always favoured such a partnership with Turkey, but after German elections in 2005, it agreed to demands from the Social Democrats, its junior coalition partner, to pursue membership talks with the Muslim country's secular government.

"When it comes to Turkey, we want ... very close relations but not full membership," Merkel said.

After a series of democratic reforms, Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005 but their pace has been slow. Ankara is aiming to comply with EU accession criteria by 2013, but Brussels has not endorsed Turkey's target date.

Turkey has so far opened discussions on only 10 of the 35 policy areas that candidates must successfully negotiate.

At the core of the slow progress is Turkey's refusal to open its ports to EU-member Cyprus under a customs union pact with the EU, which prompted the bloc in 2006 to freeze negotiations in eight chapters.

Strong opposition from some EU members to Turkey's accession has also slowed down the process, with Turkish officials accusing in particular France of hampering progress in the talks.

On Barroso, the CDU said that if the European political group that it and Barroso belong to wins in June, he should continue his "successful work" as chief of the EU's executive arm.

Barrroso's five-year mandate ends in October and no other high-profile candidate has yet emerged to head the commission, which plays a crucial role in coordinating European policy on areas ranging from food safety to foreign affairs.

Before Brown's comments Monday, Barroso had so far garnered support from Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and France's Nicolas Sarkozy -- although the French president has appeared slightly ambiguous.


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