0115 966 7955 Today's Opening Times 10:00 - 20:00 (BST)

EU Membership Criteria Evaluation Dissertation

Disclaimer: This dissertation has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional dissertation writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.


The purpose of this thesis is establishing a new membership mechanism for the European Union (EU). As the EU struggles with different kind of issues those showed up lately due to its membership mechanism, the demand for a new membership system arises. The thesis follows five steps to come up with a new solution. First step covers information of the current membership system. Second step refers particular problems closely related with membership system. In third phase the framework of the recommended system is built up considering the problems. Within the fourth step, the new system applied on mentioned problems to see how it effects current situation in theory. Finally, the self-criticism on the recommended system and the comparison between recommended and current membership mechanism is done in the fifth part.

To understand the necessity of a new membership system at least the existent structure with its historical background shall be known. As much as knowing well the source of problems, analyzing problems separately is also required to create a solution. In the same way to come up with a solution, the establishment of the system shall be based on arguments those pointed out during the examination of the current membership system. While settling the new system, required elements were inspired from different disciplines of the social science. To check the functionality of the new system, it is applied to related problems. More specific explanations about the system are held during this checking process. Even if it sounds well functioning in theory, there might be some points to criticize in the new system since the perfection of a system is hard to achieve in social topics. The last thing to decide about whether choosing the recommended system or not is comparing the system with the current one according to their advantages and disadvantages.

All in all, the thesis claims that the European Union is going to have a dynamic membership mechanism which provides more efficiency in membership activities. As a result, the EU can solve its problems and increase its structural solidity. In other words, the unification of member states may process faster than before.


The Assumption

“The European Union is NOT a religiously formed structure; unlike it is suspected and conspired as a Christianity Union by some political scientists.”

1.2 The EU and necessity of a new membership system

Europe has achieved a very stunning progress in unification so far. However the mind bending question “Does the unification make anything better for all of the EU countries?” still doesn`t have a clear answer. From 1952 Paris Treaty until 2007 the last enlargement, the European Union (EU) enlarged fifth times and each enlargement separately came with some pros and cons. It has been arguing that how come a positive and beneficial action could create drawbacks and be harmful rather than helpful. Even though the ideology behind the establishment of the European Union is basically covers mutual beneficial agreement, somehow enlargements make some members` current social and economic situation worse. Besides, there are also some debates on whether enlargements should continue or not. After considering long-term cost-benefit analysis of enlargement attempts some doubts justifiably aroused about necessity of enlargement. The answer of these kinds of questions and results of these arguments will be also provided if the dilemma of enlargement is solved. It is easy to point out the problems and backwards of enlargement observing the social and economic fluctuation in the EU countries. However, marking the first cause and fundamental reason of these problems and to find exact solutions, as much as the source of problems are different and varied and cannot be solved without major regulations, the enlargement structure should be examined per se. Thus, to see the main stream of enlargement problems, essentially focusing on the enlargement progress is necessary.

As the question aroused about the enlargement progress, the membership process that the skeleton of enlargement is so important to analyze and observe the basic reason of problems in the EU with cost-benefit perspective. It can be said that the membership process may actually the origin of the problems which can be monitored in the EU. To see how membership process affects the Union badly, a comparison of social and economic indicators between current and previous situations is truly required. In other words, analyzing from “the big bang” of the EU till current situation by looking at enlargement results gives some clues to understand how problematic the membership process is. Additionally, the current social and economic situation of the EU members and the EU`s relations with other states are also helpful indicators to recognize the problem in membership process. Furthermore, during the analysis it can be observed that in some cases the legal and written rules of the EU come short to cover the legal loophole at the current membership process.

After reaching the conclusion of analysis about the membership process, the system can be regulated and may be renewed according to the results those show us whether the system should be changed. Although if the results objectively refer the moderate performance of membership process, a new prospectively designed system will still be suggested to optimize the system and increase efficiency. Because by having a flashback to the establishment of the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) it can be seen that the main scheme of the EU was created to improve and support efficiency among countries. Thus if there is a more efficient and beneficial system which helps the EU to get rid of its problems particularly, it should be preferred to current membership process due to ideological background of the EU, even though the current system works with difficulties. Besides, the recommended system will compromise with the current system by adapting most of its features.

Mostly, membership systems are thought so strictly binding with members and rules of membership are not dynamic to adopt with a new unknown situation. But the recommended membership system which will be designed and tested can bring dynamism into the EU structure. The structure of membership process is bases on the framework of dynamic systems. As the ideology and motto of the new system, it can be said the whole world changes and differs every second to form adaptation with each items in it, systems also should be so dynamic that adopt with every sort of situation. In other words, the life is dynamic by itself. Therefore, a dynamic system for the EU membership mechanism is more realistic than a static membership model. Even in social sciences such as economics a dynamic analysis of economy is more explanatory than a static analysis and it also has more correct results.

This thesis follows on five steps those will give us an understanding of change and the difference of new membership system. First of all, the current membership system and enlargement activities will be mentioned to observe the current situation. Secondly, the international, social and economical problems caused by current membership system will be mentioned particularly. The current problems and the lack of solution method against them will be shown in this part. Thirdly, the difference and requirements of new recommended membership system will be introduced. Furthermore, the application of the new membership system will be tried out with problems which would have been mentioned on the second step. Lastly, the conclusion to make an overall analysis and self-criticism of nominated membership system emphasizing advantages and disadvantages of both membership systems will be pointed out. At the beginning of the thesis, the assumption is placed in the middle of the first page without any additional script to emphasize it very strongly. Because the whole thesis is bases on the assumption that the European Union is just a union tries to increase common benefits of all countries in Europe without any discrimination. Otherwise, if it was not said so and the European Union was a religiously established union, there would be no need to improve efficiency of the membership process because the only one membership criterion that would have been looked for would be the Christianity of the applicant countries. Hence, the thesis would be meaningless, the current application of non-Christian countries as well. The assumption also helps to set the border of this thesis. During the thesis, the focus will just be on objective materials without referring any speculative comments. The dynamic system will be recommended for the EU can also be used as a conflict resolution method on the other unions` problem.

With beliefs of the EU wants to have a more efficient and beneficial system, and also the EU defends that the unification of economic system and the harmonization of social structures shall be carried forward, a dynamic system will solve most of the problems in the union without getting in any other political debates such as religion.

As an introduction for drawbacks of the current system, slowdown in economic indicators, rising of nationalist ideology and parties, rejection of the EU constitution, domestic moral problems in member states such as in Italy, Budget deficit problems in member states like Greece and Spain, lack of common foreign and security policy, and loosing beliefs of candidate states on the EU can be referred among dozens of problems.

Nowadays, the EU is not in a comparable position with its former strength but the comparison of situations after and before enlargement activities will show that how the current system affects the strength of the union negatively. Thus, it will also explain how a membership system can diminish the power of a union. As simple as in the metaphor about flywheels of a machine, if there is any flywheel that works reversely, it should be gotten out from the mechanism before it blocks the working system. Even if a member state doesn`t work simultaneously with the union, the Union may be able to ban the state or hold its membership for a while. Otherwise the whole legal structure doesn`t help the system to work properly, this illustrates that the membership mechanism needs to be restored with an efficient one.



2.1 The current membership System

The current membership system bases on three different documents which are The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht (Article 49),The declaration of the June 1993 European Council in Copenhagen, i.e. Copenhagen criteria, and a document is decided after negotiations about adaptation to acquis communautaire between European Union and candidate state. Lately, all of the membership requirements and its legal structure were combined into the Treaty of Lisbon. This means that all of those three documents are included into the treaty of Lisbon with a couple of updates. Especially, the Copenhagen Criteria are the rules that decide whether a country is eligible to join the European Union and they are also known as the main detailed source for the membership prerequisites. Firstly, the idea of preparing a legal content for membership carried out with the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht (Article O). In Article 49 (formerly Article O), the geographical criteria and slightly general policy criteria were settled down. Then, with the 1993 Copenhagen Criteria, the general policy criteria of membership were described in more details considering three aspects; Political, Economic and Legislative. After all those criteria, as a homestretch, measures and regulations decided by negotiations between the European Union and candidate states fulfill the scheme of membership requirement for the EU. Most of these criteria have been confirmed over the last decade by legislation of the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as by the case law of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

The mentioned documents provide all requisites to become a member state of the EU. Thus, criteria can be sorted with sub-categories to understand what the EU demands from candidates particularly regarding to the general policy, geographic, political, economic, and legislative criteria. As a main frame the general policy criteria can be summarized as in the Article O (Maastricht Treaty):

“Any European State may apply to become a Member of the Union. It shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the assent of the European Parliament, which shall act by an absolute majority of its component members. The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded which such admission entails shall be the subject of an agreement between the 16 Member States and the applicant state. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.” (European Commission, 1992a)

In addition to the article it can be extensively illustrated by an excerpt from the Copenhagen Presidency conclusions:

“Membership requires that candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. ”(Copenhagen European Council, 1993: 1)

Regarding its acquis and actions, the EU doesn`t have certain steady geographic criteria for candidates. The EU refused Morocco`s applications a couple of decades ago, in 1987 due to territorial and geographical difference. Besides, even though Turkey has small part of its territory on the European continent and Turkey is on “negotiation” phase of membership process now, the membership of Turkey is still a huge debate. On the other hand, the speculations about the membership of Israel is considerably spread because of close economic and politic relations between Israel and the EU (Europa, 2007) and recently some Prime Ministers of member states individually declared that they would be happy to see Israel as a member state of the EU soon (Rettman, 2010). Hence, in the legal documents, the geographic criteria briefly demands that the candidate country shall have territory on the European continent and economical, cultural, historical and political ties with other European states as well. On the other hand, in practice, it can be seen so questionable. There is no clear answer for this dilemma. It can be easily illustrated by the fact that, before the rejection of Morocco, the EU accepted French Guiana to join the union despite the reality that it is in South Africa. Both countries mentioned in this case have similar background within France. The only difference is unlike French Guiana, Morocco is independent right now. However, instead of both countries, only French Guiana is in the EU. As a result, it can be claimed that the geographical criteria are not necessarily applicable within the current membership mechanism.

Until 1993 the decision-making process of membership doesn`t have clear references. The clear expression of prerequisites is declared with the Copenhagen Criteria. However, when member states agreed on criteria in 1993, there was no mechanism for ensuring that any member state was in compliance with these criteria. Nevertheless some legal arrangements and sanctions have been imposed to monitor compliance with these criteria. The first victim of this action was the Austrian government of Wolfgang Schüssel in early 2000. They have been come across with sanctions of the other 14 Member States' governments because of not compensating the membership requisites. These legal arrangements came into effect under the provisions of the Treaty of Nice on the first of February 2003. With Copenhagen Criteria three more aspects were added into membership mechanism; Political, Legislative and Economic criteria. These criteria are going to be explained particularly as follows;

As a crucial part of political criteria the EU ask for a consolidated democracy from candidate states. According to most political science scholars, the definition of consolidated democracy contains these three steps; Competitive elections, Liberties such as freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of association, and Consolidation of democracy in society. Consolidated democratic governance requires that all citizens of the country shall be able to participate equally in the political decision making process at every single governing level. Consolidated democracy also means free and fair elections with a secret ballot, freedom of press, the right to establish political parties without any obstacle from the state rulers, freedom of association, freedom of expression, rule of laws and freedom of standing trial through unbiased free judges. The second political criteria for candidate states is the rule of law which expresses government authority may only be exercised in accordance with documented and written laws. They should be adopted through an established procedure. In case of arbitrary rulings towards individuals, the principle is supposed to be a safeguard. The third political criterion to join the European Union is respecting the Human rights in every kind of situation. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered the most authoritative formulation of human rights and the EU is also admitted its legitimacy. According to the declaration human rights which every person holds because of their quality as a human being should be protected against all threats. Besides, those rights are inalienable and belonging to all humans. Briefly, if a right is inalienable, that means it cannot be limited, granted, bestowed, bartered away, or sold away. These include the right to life, the right to be prosecuted only according to the rule of laws, the right to be free from slavery, and the right to be free from torture.(Wikipedia, 2010a) The last but not the least political criteria for EU membership are respect for minorities and protecting their rights. At the beginning there was no clarity in definition of minorities in member states. But in 1995 with the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (COE) the EU declared minorities in member states and defined their rights with consensus. However, minorities in member states are defined by a consensus commission which was formed by member states therefore not all minorities could be regarded and defined within the concept. The consensus commission (the Venice Commission) reached the conclusion of the Convention for the Protection of National Minorities which protects minorities by defining them as “a group which is smaller in number than the rest of the population of a State, whose members, who are nationals of that State, have ethnical, religious or linguistic features different from those of the rest of the population, and are guided by the will to safeguard their culture, traditions, religion or language” (Venice Commision, 2004: 1). According to the definition of national minorities, unlike others, recent minorities such as immigrant populations have not been listed by signatory countries in the convention. This can be seen by checking the list of national minorities published by Council of Europe (Council of Europe, 2007).

Another issue of the EU membership mechanism which can also be considered as a membership requirement is the economic criteria. As it is obviously known that the free market economy is the main characteristic of the EU. Speaking generally about free market economy, candidate countries shall have a functioning free market economy and the system should not be interfered by government as little as it is possible. Besides, their producers shall have the capability to deal with competitive pressure of free market and market forces within the Union. Nowadays, all economic requirements for membership are carried out with The European Exchange Rate Mechanism to take candidates into the Eurozone. While debating economic criteria for EU membership, one of the most popular misbelieves is the acceptance of economic criteria which were defined by the Maastricht Treaty as prerequisites for membership. Because the way it is interpreted in the Maastricht Treaty concerns about member states. They mention about neither the necessity of abiding by the treaty for candidates nor obligations on candidate states. However, in practice, fulfilling those criteria is also expected from candidate states. The economic criteria defined by the Maastricht Treaty became more concrete with the Protocol on the excessive deficit procedure and the Protocol on the Convergence Criteria Referred to in Article 109j annexed to this Treaty. In the Protocols the desired ratios and rate were announced to member states, regarding to the practical aspect of the Treaty, it is binding for candidate states as well. The economic requisites for membership are sorted with articles in the protocol as follows;

“The reference values referred to in Article 104c(2) of this Treaty are: 3% for the ratio of the planned or actual government deficit to gross domestic product at market prices; 60% for the ratio of government debt to gross domestic product at market prices.”(European Commission, 1992c)

“The criterion on price stability referred to in the first indent of Article 109j (l) of this Treaty shall mean that a Member State has a price performance that is sustainable and an average rate of inflation, observed over a period of one year before the examination, that does not exceed by more than 1½ percentage points that of, at most, the three best performing Member States in terms of price stability. Inflation shall be measured by 30 means of the consumer price index on a comparable basis, taking into account differences in national definitions.”(European Commission, 1992b)

Lastly, all candidates should regulate and enact their constitutions and judicial systems to consolidate them according to European law which built up over the history of the Union and also known as the acquis communautaire. After all criteria, the negotiations phase is the last step towards membership. During the negotiations with each candidate country, progress towards meeting the Copenhagen criteria is regularly monitored. On the basis of this, decisions are made as to whether and when a particular country should join, or what actions need to be taken before its access become possible. However, even though a country successfully fulfilled the whole bunch of criteria, it is declared that the new member cannot take its place in the Union until it is considered that the EU per se shall have enough "absorption capacity" for this enlargement. This situation were announced with the excepts in Presidency Conclusions (Copenhagen European Council, 1993) as follows;

“The Union's capacity to absorb new members, while maintaining the momentum of European integration, is also an important consideration in the general interest of both the Union and the candidate countries.”(Copenhagen European Council, 1993: 1)

To see the officially declared requirements and explanations it can be better to quote some excerpts from official web-sites of the European Union, thus the criteria can be compared and understood with and without interpretation;

Accession criteria

In 1993, at the Copenhagen European Council, the Union took a decisive step towards the fifth enlargement, agreeing that “the associated countries in Central and Eastern Europe that so desire shall become members of the European Union.” Thus, enlargement was no longer a question of ‘if', but ‘when'.

Concerning the timing, the European Council states: “Accession will take place as soon as an associated country is able to assume the obligations of membership by satisfying the economic and political conditions required.” At the same time, it defined the membership criteria, which are often referred to as the ‘Copenhagen criteria'.

Copenhagen European Council

Membership criteria require that the candidate country must have achieved

  • stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
  • the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union;
  • the ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic & monetary union.

Madrid European Council

Membership criteria also require that the candidate country must have created the conditions for its integration through the adjustment of its administrative structures, as underlined by the Madrid European Council in December 1995. While it is important that European Community legislation is transposed into national legislation, it is even more important that the legislation is implemented effectively through appropriate administrative and judicial structures. This is a prerequisite of the mutual trust required by EU membership.” (European Commision, 2010)

As opposed to the membership criteria and the EU`s Acquis Communautaire, general criticisms are the lack of certainty and elaboration in membership criteria, not mentioning in Acquis Communautaire about cancelling membership in the case of refusing to carry out sanctions and penalties opted by the EU and the slightly existence of flexibility towards extreme case such as a desire of a member state to quit from the Union. In other words, there are sometimes conflicting interpretations in current member states about membership criteria and cancelling membership of an idle member state. On the other hand, the right of quitting form the union is recently added to the EU acquis with the Treaty of Lisbon.

“Before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009 no provision in the treaties or law of the European Union outlined the ability of a state to voluntary withdraw from EU. The European Constitution did propose such a provision and, after the failure to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, that provision was then included in the Lisbon Treaty.

The treaty introduces an exit clause for members who wish to withdraw from the Union. This formalizes the procedure by stating that a member state may notify the European Council that it wishes to withdraw, upon which withdrawal negotiations begin; if no other agreement is reached the treaty ceases to apply to the withdrawing state two years after such notification.”(Wikipedia, 2010b)

“Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”(European Comission, 2007: Article 50)

2.2 Enlargement Activities

The European Union enlarged fifth times so far and enlargements with greater amount of candidates mostly occurred through eastern European countries after the definition of the criteria mentioned above. This enlargement process started in 1952 when the European Union was still called as the European Coal and Steel Community. Since then, the EU has achieved to have twenty-seven member states with the most recent expansion to Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.

Table 1. The EU`s enlargements and its approved members





23 July 1952



Founding Members

23 July 1952

(West) Germany


23 July 1952



23 July 1952



23 July 1952



23 July 1952



1 January 1973

United Kingdom

10 August 1961

First Enlargement

10 May 1967

1 January 1973


10 August 1961

11 May 1967

1 January 1973


10 August 1961

11 May 1967

1 January 1981


12 June 1975

Second Enlargement

1 January 1986


28 June 1977

Third Enlargement

1 January 1986


28 March 1977

1 January 1995


17 July 1989

Fourth Enlargement

1 January 1995


1 July 1991

1 January 1995


18 March 1992

1 May 2004


3 July 1990

Fifth Enlargement

1 May 2004


3 July 1990

1 May 2004


31 March 1994

1 May 2004


5 April 1994

1 May 2004


27 June 1995

1 May 2004


13 September 1995

1 May 2004


24 November 1995

1 May 2004


8 December 1995

1 May 2004

Czech Republic

17 January 1996

1 May 2004


10 June 1996

1 January 2007


22 June 1995

1 January 2007


14 December 1995

Within the table above the enlargements and candidate countries are sorted according to historical antecedence. On the other side, there are also countries which could not join the EU because of particular reasons. The United Kingdom is vetoed by the French Government in 1961 and Denmark and Ireland withdrew their application on that time. After De Gaul government in France left office, together with the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, and Norway applied and were accepted in the first enlargement; however the Norwegian government lost a national referendum on membership and hence did not accede with the others on 1 January 1973. Thenceforward, Norway withdrew its applications two more times on 21 July 1967 and on 25 November 1992 because of the same reason as before. Similarly Switzerland is other country that applied on 25 May 1992 and froze joining the union due to lack of public support. Another different case in enlargement history of the EU is the rejection of Morocco on 20 July 1987 because of geographical reasons. Unlike Morocco, Turkey applied for full membership on 14 April 1987 and still negotiates with the Union as an official candidate. Recently Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland and Serbia applied for full membership of the EU.

Table 2. Incomplete membership attempts





30 April 1962


21 July 1967

25 November 1992


14 April 1987



20 July 1987



25 May 1992



21 February 2003



22 March 2004

official candidate


15 December 2008

Not yet official candidate


28 April 2009

Not yet official candidate


17 July 2009

Not yet official candidate


22 December 2009

Not yet official candidate

This table shows the non-member states which have just applied for nomination, haven`t finished the membership process successfully yet or already decided to give up the idea of joining the EU. After the fifth enlargement related with eastern European countries, the EU focused on the Balkans region. Therefore, Balkan countries applied for the membership. However, the Balkans politically, socially and economically has conflicts and problems per se. Hence their memberships may take a long time. Otherwise if the EU let the Balkan countries to join the Union before Turkey, this will turn into an international chaos in the perspective of Turkish government.

2.3 The overview of the current membership mechanism

As an overview for the first part of this thesis, the progression of membership system can be explained as follows; the state who wants to be a member of the EU applies to start membership process. If the union accepts that the applicant state satisfies the prerequisites, they announce the applicant as official candidate. Whenever the Union feels and observes that the candidate is ready to negotiate about further regulations and measures for full membership, both sides will claim their oppositions and come to an agreement. This phase may last decades without ending. After adopting acquis communautaire and requirements which are mentioned before such as consolidated democracy, less budget deficit, etc., the last steps for full membership are the EU members should accept the candidate as a member state with consensus and the public opinion in the candidate state should be positive as well. This means that the voting result of a conducted plebiscite for the EU membership should demonstrate more than fifth percent. Giving some example scenarios will be beneficial to understand and summarize all of the EU membership processes. In the best condition scenario Let`s assume that there is a country with so much cultural, social and economical similarity to other member states, its territory is totally in European Continent and it applies for full membership of the EU, it should have approval from its own public opinion and positive votes from all member states by adopting its systems to the EU-acquis. In the current system, the model state cannot figure out which criteria will be demanded and what kind of obstacles it will come across. Same as uncertainty of demands, benefits of the union will also be uncertain during the membership process. Hence the model state and its society cannot make any cost-benefit analysis. Besides, after being part of the Union there is no such an option for the model state that gives clue about the costs of quitting from membership or not obeying the rules after becoming a full member state. The documents of membership mechanism don`t have any excerpt that goes further than penalties in case of violation of the Union rules. In other words, by applying for membership, the state will hit a road with unknown end. In the second scenario is settled on relatively moderate conditions the model state should struggle with the agreements of whether being European Country because in our assumption part of its territory is out of European Continent. It also should deal with problems same as in the first scenario. As a hypothetical sample, indicators can be assumed with moderate perspective therefore the economic, social and political indicators are not clean cut in the candidate country. Thus, the EU membership process will take so much time and it will last decades to come with an end or maybe the process won`t end up with full membership. Lastly, in the worst case scenario the model state has instability in every indicator and it doesn`t have any connections with the member countries as well. It will apply for membership and probably according to this membership mechanism it may be accepted as candidate and kept as a candidate as long as candidate wants to give up or it may be rejected due to lack of believing it to achieve to the EU criteria. Those unnamed scenario can be transcribed for Norway, Turkey and Morocco respectively. With this membership system Norway couldn`t get positive results from referendums and didn`t join the union, Turkey still waits for some progress on full membership and Morocco was rejected because of slight ties with the European continent.

All in all, It can be said that the membership process of the European Union asks for some slightly certain requirements which are not deeply planned. The EU membership mechanism is not designed to result applications rapidly. Besides, It doesn`t have efficient procedures which helps to improve benefits of both side; applicants and the Union. Clearly the uncertainty in the membership process is not created for having a flexible and dynamic system. Unlike dynamic systems, the current one just causes inefficiency due to uncertainty. A dynamic system should compensate uncertainty with concrete solutions. In the next part, the problems related with the EU will become more obvious to analyze since the membership process and enlargements have been observed above briefly.



3.1 Economic problems aroused recently

The EU has come across with difficulties unavoidably due to the current membership mechanism. Problems which are mostly caused by setting the membership mechanism wrongly can be solved with a new system. In this part the problems are divided into sub-categories to use them as case studies in further chapters. As it is commonly known the EU is established as an economic Union. The aim was increasing efficiency in the trade between European nations. However, in these days the economic indicators are not even close to intended levels. In contrast to indicators some people may claim the effect of the recession in 2009 as an excuse. To conclude the debate about why economy doesn`t go well for the EU, the answer is hidden into enlargement activities. Furthermore, in certain cases such as Greece, Spain and Portugal there are also some clues to find out the real reason. After the establishment phase, in the further progress of the EU if the political and social manners are examined, it can be seen that the union tries to have common policies towards these aspects so far. But the attempts of this harmonization process reflected as unintended results. For instance, the EU citizens have become relatively more conservative and member states have carried out more nationalist policies. In addition to domestic failure, on the international arena the EU lost the positivity of public opinion by following wrong membership strategy. As a clue of problems domestic public opinion in the union can be seen in the Special Eurobarometer about “the Europeans in 2009”(European Commision, 2009: 67-68). It is declared that a relative majority of Europeans now also feel that things are moving in the wrong direction in the European Union (39%).

First of all, understanding how enlargements affect the economic situation will be better to clarify problematic structure of the membership. The common opinion on the correlation of enlargement and economy is usually positive. Fundamentally, this means that as far as the union enlarges and new markets join the economic system, the economy will grow up and present better opportunities as well. However, the assumption of the economic theory may sometimes be correct but not always. In the EU history till the fifth enlargement the theory works very smoothly but during that time the EU didn`t have certain membership mechanism. For instance, according to the Special Eurobarometer about “the Europeans in 2009”(European Commission, 2009: Pg.67) close to half of EU (48%) citizens consider that their purchasing power has deteriorated over the past five years.

Table 3. and 4. were prepared according to the assumption about completion of the fifth enlargement in 2004 (the entrance of Bulgaria and Romania is assumed as in 2004, not in 2007 to simplify outlook) and tables also include four years after and before of the enlargement to compare the differences. Another important point in the tables is the subsequent data of the European Union with 15 members were calculated through years after the fifth enlargement. Similarly, the subsequent data of the European Union with 27 members were computed through years before the fifth enlargement. Hence the effects can be observed clearly. First of all, the Table 3 shows that even though the fifth enlargement would have been occurred earlier, it would damage the system with same results. In the Table 3, it is obvious that there is a missing wealth of each inhabitant in the Union. In other words, after the fifth enlargement all inhabitants in the EU lost their wealth around four thousands euro. It also refers that the candidate states were not well prepared for membership as they would cause

In the Table 4, the contribution of the 12 newly joined countries into the union can be seen as a percentage of the agglomerated GDP of the EU. The positive effect of 12 countries is almost negligible if we divided the contribution by number of those states. Frankly, it can be said that the contribution of 12 countries increases from year to year sluggishly. However, considering the loss of wealth and the less of contribution, it is obvious that the fifth enlargement couldn`t achieve its goal as it was assumed. The graphs below indicate the situation about the fifth enlargement simply. Simulating the model from 2000 to 2009 proves that candidates couldn`t have any improvements or developments to catch up the performance of the EU.

Mistakes in the fifth enlargement mostly related with the membership mechanism because the system doesn`t have certain requirements for all candidates. In other words, mechanism can be loosened by political authority with regard to who is candidate. For instance, Even though the Maastricht Criteria is a “must” for candidates to be fulfilled, in the fifth enlargement somehow some countries which couldn`t provide the criteria, especially economic criteria, joined the union such as Bulgaria and Romania since the EU gave a promise for full membership in a while. To disrupt the effects of wrong decision-making mechanism, a new system that gives the ability of fair evaluation of a candidate state should be established.

Second of all, seven of the European Union members are at the top of external debt list according to the data of CIA the World Factbook 2009. The three significant economies in the Union economy are close to catch the United State regarding to external debt; British, German and French. This refers that pioneer states can neither help other members nor themselves about bad economic affairs. Most of the member states almost doubled their external debts after the last recession in 2009. In the Graph 1 and 2, the actual data clearly show that the last steps of the European Union were not sufficient to keep economy active therefore reasons of the last recession were predicted as economic slowdown even though the union enlarged and accepted 12 countries which means 12 new markets to sell European goods. The idea about richening the union by enlargements haven`t worked out during the last couple of years. Contrary, with the membership mechanism countries damaged each other by their domestic crisis because in the current membership system there was no “escape valve” for member state to keep their damage away from other nations in any case. If something happens to one member state, it directly affects others no matter how slight the problem is. One of the most absolute clues about this situation can be understand by observing British public opinion. The United Kingdom accepted to join the union but not the Eurozone and they didn`t convert their national currency to Euro since it was considered as an escape valve from the side effects of the union in any case. Nowadays, British public opinion shows that their inhabitants are proud of their decision makers due to taking this action at the beginning. People also think that the damage of the union could be worse if the idea of Eurozone wouldn`t be rejected. On the other hand, not all nations were lucky as the United Kingdom they didn`t have escape valves and they felt the effects of the recession deeply such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.

While effects of the recession fade away, Greece still struggles with huge external debt crisis. First off, joining the Eurozone caused to increase in inflation in Greece and so far their economy couldn`t prosper to develop itself. The union aids were wasted and couldn`t be used efficiently. Besides, the side effects of getting easy money from the union such as laziness still causes breakdown. Nowadays, Greece with its economic indicators is far away from the Maastricht criteria. But the union cannot apply any useful sanctions to Greece because the membership system doesn`t let it happens. Additionally, after the announcement of the “Eurostat”, which collects statistical data from member and candidate states and analyzes them, about the cheating of Greece on the economic data given to the Eurostat while Greece membership was still proceeding, the union couldn`t applied any banning or suspension policy towards Greece. Furthermore, Greece's 2009 budget deficit was just revised from 12.2% to 16% of GDP which means that Greece is too far to assure the European Union`s economic criteria. The last attempt of the union was warning of Greece to announce new economic packages to sustain credibility. The whole procedure in the Protocol on the excessive deficit procedure in the Maastricht Treaty are applied by the authorities but the last step in the procedure is just concerned about giving penalty with certain amount of euro. However, loading more burden on a nation with full of debt doesn`t seem as the most reasonable solution. The membership system cannot punish faults with justice because as much as the entry of the system is important to sustain the union, the exit from the union also provides strength of the union progress. In other words, the actual membership mechanism rewards members which abuse their privileges. A new membership mechanism shall let the members to quit or enter the system dynamically. Correspondingly, the mechanism shall also ban or suspend the members.

Another economic problem within the union aroused in Spain and Portugal. Those nations have already struggled with poverty and underdevelopment before participating into the EU because of instability in their economic and political background. After joining the EU, They used to recover the difference of prosperity among their people and inhabitants in the union. For 14 years, Spain was one of Europe's top economic performers, but nowadays it is obvious to say that the growth was based too largely on insubstantial economic boom which was originally triggered by being member of the union. The global crisis hit Spain harder than most other Western countries. For instance, the excessively inflated construction sector which had covered more than 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) experienced a meltdown. In addition to this, unemployment level became about 19 percent which is almost twice the European Union average, and Spain is the only major developing country not expected to rise out of recession before 2011. The loss of tax revenue, growing unemployment benefit costs and economic stimulus packages have boosted the budget deficit to 11.4 per cent of GDP, one of the highest in the EU. Compare to Spain, Even though Portugal has close deficit percentage, it doesn`t have huge problems about other economic indicators. But the potential dangers for Europe are much greater than those emanating from Greece, because the Spanish economy is four times as large. Nobel-winning US economist Paul Krugman said that “In economic terms the heart of the crisis is in Spain, which is much bigger than Greece”. Noticeably, at least, The Greek government has warned about its economic problems which may not only spill over to the Eurozone, but also strongly to Spain and Portugal. The warning of the Greek government illustrates the lack of means in the system because the European Union cannot take any actions towards this situation except complaining and warning other members. The situation clearly indicates that the current system cannot solve the problem by itself and should be renewed.

Another problematic country in the union is Italy. Nowadays, Italy is called as “the sick man of the Europe”(Economist, 2005, The Daily Telegraph, 2008) because of economic stagnation, political instability and problems in pursuing reform programs. According to Italian government estimates, it stands at more than 110 percent of GDP. The debt ratio of Italy and its total public debt is sky high. While the Maastricht Treaty was signed, Italy had been in the same difficult situation about debt ratio. From that day on not so many things changed in economic indicators. Contrary, Italian economy ran down by domestic and international crisis. The membership system couldn`t force the instable political authority in Italy to correct its failure. Even though Italy doesn`t fit the Maastricht criteria, there is no such a mechanism can put pressure on one of the establisher members of the union. Being free of charge in any condition for a member state enables same opportunities for other members. That`s way, the newly appointed Greek government claimed that the cause of the recent economic crisis in Greece is the European Union.

The last exemplary country to understand the current economic situation of the union is Ireland. Ireland joined the union with the first enlargement and it has been seen that Ireland benefitted from being part of the union. However, Ireland lost everything allocated during membership by the last recession. It was almost one of the first victim affected by the recession. After a brilliant run in economic indicators, Ireland forfeited all benefits and now It cannot even satisfy the economic conditions for the EU`s membership a bit.








Debt ratio






Percent of GDP (2009)

Budget deficit






Percent of GDP (2009)

GDP growth






2009 Estimated values

Sources: European Commission, *Forecasts by the Italian government, Sept. 2009,**revised forecast by the Portuguese government,2009.

Table 6.

The table about troublesome members in the union clearly demonstrates the necessity of renewing the membership system since non of the members are not even close to the economic criteria now. For instance, It is written in the Protocol on the excessive deficit procedure of the Maastricht Treaty that the limit of budget deficit shall not be more than 3,5 percent of GDP for member states. As it is respectively shown in the table Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland have %12.7, %11.2, %9.3, %5.3, %12.5 budget deficit ratios. It is easy to see the distance between expected and actual values. According to current system none of those member states should be in the union since they don`t fulfill the accession criteria.

3.2 An increase in Political Risks

The issue is more damaging than the economic problems is the arising of political risks. After the establishment of the union, nationalist and conservative tendency increases gradually. In other words, Euro-skepticism couldn`t be overcome by the union through enlargements. The last national elections in member states illustrate the change of public opinion towards politics. Even though the contribution of parties` performance and global economic crisis into this result are proportionally high, the conservative tendency can be seen particularly. Ideas and theories against the European Union are more influential now. With some exceptions mostly, nationalist and conservative parties come up with ideas which defend inhibitive actions towards more unification in the union and usually socialist parties and center parties claim to sustain the unification towards further levels. Therefore, more nationalist parties are at relatively higher stages in national elections means less unification and progress in the union. As it can be observed on member states` administrations, Christian democrats usually defend to keep the union into the border of Economic aspect. Thus, they can also be accepted as obstacles front of more unification. Unlike at the beginning of the union, Inhabitants of the European Union don`t want the union to interfere their national domestic policies anymore according to the results of national elections. For instance, In Sweden Left wing lost its long lasted domination to the right wing through recent election. In the biggest contributors of the union; Germany and France, conservatives won the elections two times. Especially in France the conservative party`s nationalist administration can damage the idea of European harmony. Until the last announcement of economic crisis in Greece and simultaneously the recent election on 4 October 2009, Conservative party won the elections two times and they spent most of the economic support of the union on arm race with Turkey which is given to improve governability and efficiency in Greece. Due to the misperception of the European Union`s idea by the former government which was a right wing party, Greece squandered economic sources of the Union. Additionally, inactivity of the membership mechanism against political corruption causes the risk of diffusion of the union. In every member states there are some politicians accused by corruption, bribery and so on. However, there is no such a supranational authority in the union to judge and punish their dishonesty. Therefore, member states shall solve the political corruption problems inside of their country. But sometimes the inner judicial mechanism in member states cannot be sufficient and fair enough to judge senior politicians. For instance, In Italy even though there are lots of claims and accusations about the Prime Minister S. Berlusconi being related with Italian Mafia, none of the judicial attempts could be concluded successfully as yet. Hence, at the recent ceremony about opening of the hilary term in Italy, Some of Judges and attorney generals protested him. Member states don`t let the supranational authority which is the European Union intervene their domestic issue and they cannot solve their own problems as well. A membership mechanism must solve this conflict. Otherwise the political risk in a member state may cause political disorder in the union. The system shall keep corrupted politicians outside of the Union`s decision making process.

3.3 Decline in Social Harmony

The greatest supporter of the unification process is the people of Europe. Even though the beginning of the European Union had based on economic interests, the further progress has been achieved by support and willingness of European people. It can be frankly said that the unification in European continent exists and be maintained as much as people of Europe wants to be together. Otherwise, despite the fact that in a case of the European countries need to be gathered for an economic interest, if people doesn`t want to be in a union, none of the countries can join the attempt. Because all European countries have democratic political structure and they conduct fair elections. The idea of people in a country reflects to the political authority. However, in some cases people`s political tendency can be manipulated by external effects such as global economic crisis. In general, during an economic crisis obviously people becomes more nationalist thinking foreigners` economic activities in their countries and they believe that those migrants and foreigners steal their prosperity working in their country. As if the unification means free movement of capital and labor, the national governments take decisions to decrease those movements. This feeling of people blocks the unification progress. As much as people in the member states become more nationalist the European Union cannot achieve its unification and harmonization target. Similarly, the recent recession had caused high unemployment rate in the member states and people has started to blame migrant workers stealing their jobs from their national labor market. This shows the fragile structure of the union. If current governments in member states want to stay in their position, they will act more populist and support the nationalist demands. Thus, the European unification in every aspect except economic interests will be failed by its operators. The conflict between the nationalist idea and the European idea which bases on harmonization and creation of European civilization will determine the result of the progress of the unification. The mentioned progression of national feelings can be clearly observed in the Special Eurobarometer from European Commission about “the Europeans in 2009”. The tendency of the inhabitants is shown with comparison of former data about the public opinion of European inhabitants. This sort of social manipulations can be simplified and minimized by a membership mechanism which provides opportunity to see the real causes of social problems. However, the current membership system doesn`t give the chance of considering benefits of the unification to the member states and their inhabitants just for a moment to get rid of the social manipulation like economic crisis on their persistence of European unification. Rejection of the constitutionalization attempts of the EU by national referendums several times can be referred as a proof for social confusion. Lately, authorities in the member states tried to fix this problem signing the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. But during the approval process of the treaty, member states decided to keep people out of the ratification phase of the treaty by not conducting plebiscites. Except Ireland which is tied to a referendum according with national constitution in order to take those actions, other member states refrained to arrange a national referendum to approve the treaty. This also means that, the further progress in the unification may not be achieved easily for the EU. In this perspective any slowdown in unification process may cause diffusion of the union because the positive perspective of inhabitants melts away and opposition towards the union increase gradually. Furthermore, in some cases political authorities wrongly try to create or to maintain the nationalistic feelings those of course prevent unification. For example, nowadays in France there is a prepared draft approved from the legal commission about measures to raise French nationalism by education. According to this draft, in French schools, students will have to sing French anthem everyday and the flag of French will have to be in every class and so on (AP Foreign, 2010). Interestingly, the counted nationalist measures are currently in practice in Turkey and the European commission criticizes and forces the Turkish authority to fix them.

Additionally, Falling enthusiasm is another crucial problem that the EU has to deal with. Even the accession of the two new countries are Bulgaria and Romania couldn`t save the union from the falling enthusiasm in Europe. “A recent Eurobarometer poll suggested only 41% of people in the 15 states that were part of the EU before 2004 supported further enlargement. There are also fears that the countries' economies will fail to compete with the rest of the EU's once trade barriers come down.”(BBC News, 2007)

3.4 Loosing public opinion in the international area

In the international arena the EU lost its reputation about good governance of unification since its membership mechanism locked them not to solve economic, political and social problems. Candidate states claim that they already deserve to be in the union examining economic social and political indicators of the current member states because current members are not in a good situation according to those indicators. Afterwards they announce to the international public opinion the unequal treatment of the union towards candidates. As much as the union couldn`t improve positions of its members, in the international opinion, candidates seem to be right about their exclamation gradually. Additionally, due to slightly existence of objective criteria and strategies in the current membership system, in candidates sight the reliability of the union decreases from day to day. Besides, taking slow only the membership process of the non-Christian candidate which is Turkey gives support to the Huntington's the clash of civilization hypothesis and sends wrong message to eastern Islamic countries that causes misperception of the European Union as a Christian Union. Furthermore, synchronous increase in conservative feelings among European inhabitants and the effects of social manipulations towards full membership of Turkey can be observed with the study organized by Istanbul's Bogazici University, Granada University in southern Spain and the Autonomous University of Madrid questioned 5,000 people in Britain, Franc

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this dissertation and no longer wish to have the dissertation published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:

More from UK Essays

Get help with your dissertation
Find out more