Franco Frattini attending Budapest Conference
Opportunities Seized, Opportunities Missed
Ten years in the European Union
Werner Fasslabend, Radoslaw Sikorski, Karel Schwarzenberg, Lamberto Dini, Franco Frattini, Janos Martonyi, Miroslav Lajcak, Guido Westerwelle, Zsolt Németh, Hubert Védrine
The joining of ten new members in 2004 had been a major turning point for the European Union, former EU prime ministers and foreign ministers said at a conference on Monday.
Addressing the conference which marks the tenth anniversary of the EU accession of ten members, Guido Westerwelle, former German foreign minister, said the expansion of the EU with ten new members had been the birth of Europe as we see it today. Despite euroscepticism, which is present throughout Europe, the bloc has been “a unique success story” once we understand that it means more than just a common market and currency union and that it is “life assurance” for the people of Europe in the time of globalism.
Integration is now following two tracks: it is enlarging and deepening the union at the same time, he said, adding that deepening integration should mean “a better Europe” not just “more Europe”.
He said that Europe is through the bulk of the economic crisis, but it has yet to face the worst of the political crisis concerning governance issues.
Former Italian prime minister Lamberto Dini said addressing the conference that only by maintaining unity and integration, can it be ensured that a European project grows into a social model in a real sense. He said had there not been an enlargement, Europeans in new member states would be living worse off today.
Hubert Vedrine, foreign minister of France from 1997 to 2002, including accession talks for the EU10, said France had always supported the accession of Central and Eastern European countries, whose place is unquestionably in the EU. Competences of EU decision makers have to be defined and there is no need to endorse comprehensive legislation every five years in the EU, he added. “The post of enlargement commissioner will have to be scrapped and the EU has to be positioned in world politics”, he said.
The next speaker, Mikulas Dzurinda, former Slovak prime minister, noted that Europe’s reunification had been greeted by old member states and the United States, too, because they knew that it was not only a step beneficial in terms of rectifying the past, but also good from an economic and security point of view.
Speaking next, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that the majority of member states had communicated to the public the necessity and the reasons of measures implemented to tackle the economic cricis in a disappointing way.
He said it was a mistake by the EU to make the impression in Kiev with the Eastern Partnership programme that it served “as a sort of entry-hall” for accession and to create the illusion that Eastern Partnership would offer “some sort of balance” against Russia. The EU has however corrected this lattest mistake, he said. Concerning the conflict in Ukraine, Frattini said that giving priority to a common European energy strategy should be more important than considering sanctions against Russia.
In his address, Borys Tarasyuk, the foreign minister of Ukraine in 1998-2000 and 2005-2007, said that despite challenges faced currently by his country, Ukraine “would be an inseparable part” of a united Europe. He said that in his view the current Ukrainian conflict “had been designed in the Kremlin” and accused Moscow of aggression exercised against Ukraine. What Russia in fact wants is not to protect the interests of Ukraine’s Russians, but punish the country itself for having chosen democracy, Tarasyuk said. Moscow also wants to undermine Ukraine’s European integration, he said, adding that the third reason for Moscow’s steps was “a fight for energy resources.”
He said Russia had been acting as a “rogue state” and this required an “appropriate response” from the EU and NATO.