Continuity and Change
Studies in EU Reform and Enlargement series
Edited by Edward Best, Thomas Christiansen and Pierpaolo Settembri
* John Peterson and Andrea Birdsall Only the most courageous contemporary analyst could claim to know what signiﬁcance will be attributed by future historians to the 2004–7 enlargements of the European Union (EU). Perhaps the radical expansion of the EU’s membership will come to be seen as one of the most heroic and consequential steps ever taken towards the political uniﬁcation of Europe. By this view, the EU system would absorb, without damaging itself, an 80 per cent increase in member states over three years. Speciﬁcally, enlargement would succeed in three diﬀerent senses. First, the EU’s institutions would smoothly integrate nationals from the new 12 member states. Second, the EU12 (as they have come to be called), many of which only recently regained their sovereignty, would grow comfortable with the idea of pooling it, thus enhancing the legitimacy of EU decisions and institutions. Third, the EU would continue to function without any ‘seizing up’ of its (already intricate) system of decision-making. Alternatively, 1 May 2004 might mark the moment when the unique European post-war experience of pooling sovereignty and delegating authority to the EU’s institutions became a sort of museum piece. A system designed during the Cold War for limited ends, and which (by some accounts) generated many unintended consequences, would ﬁnally lose its almost miraculous capacity for collective action. Especially in light of the rejection of the EU’s Constitutional Treaty – a result sometimes blamed on enlargement itself (see Cohen-Tanugi 2005) – the competing demands of 27...
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