Rafal Trzaskowski, Member of the European Parliament from the constituency of Warsaw, reflects on the European Union’s enlargement policy, the debate on a constitution for Europe, and the performance of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Eight countries would like to join the European Union (EU). Which country will be the EU’s 28th Member State?
Croatia will be the 28th Member State of the EU, as we have finished the accession negotiations. The mood in the EU for further enlargement is not positive, but the EU still remains attractive to many countries in its neighbourhood. The remaining countries of the Balkan Peninsula would be next in line, as we promised them in 2004 at the Thessaloniki Summit, but it might take a long time. All the other prospective ambitious countries, besides Iceland, have a long way to go.
Does the EU need a constitution? Will it need one if more countries join?
According to the European Court of Justice the EU has a constitution in the form of the existing, continuously amended treaties. There is no doubt that EU is founded on a constitutional order of its own. I do not think that it needs anything less or anything more. The failed attempt to push through a constitutional treaty in 2004, which in reality was very much like the previous treaties, provoked, in my point of view, understandable panic. This did not bode well for similar future constitutional ambitions. The EU is not a state, and terms borrowed from state-like systems – such as ‘constitution’ are at best misleading. We need a flexible treaty arrangement which can be fine-tuned when necessary, and through tortuous experiment we arrived at having exactly that. A wise adage goes: If something is not seriously broke, do not fix it.
Who is more powerful: Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, or Radosław Sikorski, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs? Who should be more powerful?
Pardon my language, but this is a silly question. We are in the process of building a base for a common, coordinated approach to foreign policy. When we agree, we have all the instruments to implement our common intentions. When we do not agree, we still go our own separate ways. It is not ideal, but that is the reality. Our European spokesman, Catherine Ashton, should be as strong and as effective as possible. However, juxtaposing that post with foreign ministers of big countries does not make much sense. Foreign policy is still in the hands of Member States, but we will only be taken seriously by the outside world when we speak with one voice. Our voice should be audible and synchronize with the music – above all it should not be off-key. For that to be possible, we should have the will and the instruments to arrive at a common position as quickly as possible.
The past year’s ‘Arab Spring’ has seen a fundamental change in the EU’s relationship with many of its neighbours. How can the EU, through its own foreign policy, help these countries make the transition towards democracy?
We should invest in our neighbourhood. Bring those countries as close to the EU as possible in real terms, open our programmes and agencies for their participation – we started doing just that -, demolish trade barriers, fund scholarships, have a flexible visa policy. In one word: Do as much as we can on the ground, and make do with lofty declarations. When undemocratic regimes are in place we should work above their heads with civil society. Do what we preach when it comes to values, avoid patronizing language and above all: Listen.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics
Rafal Trzaskowski – Member of the European Parliament
Rafal Trzaskowski has been a Member of European Parliament from the constituency of Warsaw since 2009. He is a member of Civic Platform – which belongs to the EPP, the largest party group in the European Parliament. He works in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and in the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. Before he was elected to the European Parliament, he was the advisor to Jacek Saryusz-Wolski , the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament.