The EU's Next Priority After Enlargement? Le défi Americain

The European Union summit that just ended in Copenhagen has more or less settled the EU's future frontiers. Ten new members, from Central Europe and the Mediterranean, will be admitted in 2004. Two other countries, Bulgaria and Romania, can aim for membership three years after that. Turkey, after much huffing and puffing, has had its status as an officially recognized candidate for membership reaffirmed, even if mighty doubts remain as to when it will actually join.

Because this enlargement round is likely to be the last for a long time, if not forever, it is urgent for member states to think seriously about re-writing the EU treaties to deal with the new reality, in terms which will be workable for the long term. In particular, member states will need to think much more radically about developing a strong EU foreign and security policy, for two reasons.

First, enlargement will take the EU right up to the frontier of Russia and the former Soviet Union; if Turkey joins, the EU will extend to the heart of the Middle East as well. Second, the international context in which the EU operates is being transformed by the strategic revolution underway in Washington. For the past 50 years, the EU was largely able to count on a benign partnership with the US in a multilateral context; that assumption no longer holds, even if we do not yet know the extent of America's new unilateralism.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that the EU remains wholly unprepared for its "big bang" enlargement, even as it is set to begin. No one has any idea how to run a Union of 25 or more member states--not even in terms of basic logistics, starting with the geometric escalation in translation requirements. Or consider the laboriousness of conducting negotiations in a room with 25 national delegations, 10 of whom will be unfamiliar with the way the EU works.