Tag Archives: acquis communautaire

How an independent Scotland could enter the EU

Scottish referendum debate urging yes vote

One of the most vexing questions of the current campaign for Scottish independence is how easily it might be for an independent Scotland to join the European Union.scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag IconEuropean_Union

As a constituent part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has been part of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Economic Community, since 1972, the date of the first EEC enlargement, when Ireland and Denmark also joined.

As such, Scotland has been exempt from several conditions that would be required of an independent country seeking EU membership today. Scotland hasn’t had to join the eurozone or become a member of the Schengen zone, which allows all EU citizens to travel freely throughout 26 of the 28 member states (Ireland and the United Kingdom are the exceptions). It has also received some of the benefit of those rebates that Margaret Thatcher clawed back from Europe in the 1980s.

An independent Scotland might be forced to accept, at least in principle, joining either or both of the the eurozone the Schengen zone as a condition of re-accession to the European Union. The former could complicate the assurances that Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has tried to give that Scotland could continue using the British pound and, like Ireland today, share open borders with what remains of the United Kingdom. Continue reading How an independent Scotland could enter the EU

Was it a mistake for the European Union to admit Croatia earlier this year?


It hasn’t been an incredibly distinguished first six months for the European Union’s 28th member.croatia

Croatia, which entered the European Union on July 1, is only the second state to do so from the former Yugoslav union, but it’s already proving to be somewhat of a problem child — as some Europeans feared openly before its accession.

Most of those fears relate to economics and, given the eurozone’s economic crisis over the past four years, you might have thought that Croatia’s growing pains would be economic in nature, but that’s not the case.

Instead, Croatia’s difficulties have more to do with social issues and historical legacies — in its first six months of EU membership, Croatia caused a showdown almost immediately with EU leaders over the potential extradition of Josip Perković, the former Yugoslav-era director of Croatia’s secret police, and it signaled to the world its relative intolerance for LGBT freedom by conducting a referendum that resulted in a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage at a time when much of Europe is embracing equal marriage rights for LGBT individuals.

Those experiences could shape future EU appetite for further expansion in the Balkans, at a time when the European Union has deftly dangled the carrot of EU membership in exchange for a more permanent peace between Serbia and Kosovo, and at a time when EU membership might be the only thing that can save the triple-fractured union of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while also integrating smaller countries like Macedonia and Montenegro into the global economy.

The most serious rupture began three days before Croatia even joined the European Union when it passed the ‘Perković law,’ which purported to prevent the extradition of anyone for crimes committed before August 2002.  That caused an almost immediate backlash against Croatia from EU leaders and the other 27 EU member-states, and by September — less than 90 days after Croatia had joined the European Union — EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, was threatening economic sanctions.  Germany, in particular, is interesting in extraditing Perković in relation to his role in the assassination of Croatian defector Stjepan Đureković, who was killed in 1983 in what was then West Germany.

Ironically, it’s the center-left government of Zoran Milanović, who leads the four-party Kukuriku coalition and its largest member, the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP, Socijaldemokratska partija Hrvatske), that dug in its heels over the Perković law, not the more conservative, nationalist opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ, Hrvatska demokratska zajednica), which governed Croatia through much of the EU harmonization period, from 2003 through the December 2011 election.  The HDZ, as well as several top government officials opposed the law from the beginning, including Croatia’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister Vesna Pusić, the leader of the second-largest party in the Kukuriku coalition, the Croatian People’s Party/Liberal Democrats (HNS, Hrvatska narodna stranka/liberalni demokrati).

Milanović and the Croatian government eventually backed down in late September by amending the law in a way that complied with EU requirements, but only after Reding instituted formal EU proceedings, needlessly undermining Croatian credibility almost immediately after its EU accession.

Yet almost as soon as the extradition crisis ended, Croatia found itself embroiled in another difficult debate in holding the December 1 constitutional referendum on same-sex marriage.   Continue reading Was it a mistake for the European Union to admit Croatia earlier this year?

Iceland ends its short-lived quest to join the European Union


It should have come as no surprise to observers of Iceland, but its new center-right government has firmly closed the door to membership in the European Union anytime soon, with an announcement from Icelandic foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson (pictured above, left) last week.Iceland Flag IconEuropean_Union

It was virtually certain that Iceland would take a step back from EU membership, given that both governing parties — the Framsóknarflokkurinn (Progressive Party) and the Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Independence Party) — campaigned against EU membership in Iceland’s April parliamentary elections.

Former social democratic prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir launched membership talks with the European Union in July 2009, when Iceland was still reeling from the effects of a financial crisis that bankrupted its three major banks and left Iceland in economic meltdown.  In the immediate aftermath of the September 2008 crisis, some Icelanders even seriously considered joining the euro after the Icelandic krónur tanked in value.  As Iceland’s economy has recovered to some degree, despite difficult loan burdens and continued currency controls, and as the eurozone has come to appear more like a monetary straitjacket than an economic life raft, Icelandic voters have increasingly soured on the benefits of EU membership.

Though prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s Progressive Party was seen as originally more open to continuing the talks, Gunnlaugsson seems to have taken aboard the more hardline views of the Independence Party — no one quite expected the government to end negotiations with such resolute finality in only its first month in office.

So while Iceland will continue to be a part of Europe, it will do so, like Norway and Switzerland, outside of a formal membership of the European Union.

As I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the election, however, the line between membership and Iceland’s current status is not as bright as you might expect: Continue reading Iceland ends its short-lived quest to join the European Union

Iceland’s election spells the end for its EU accession hopes

(110) Tides pushes out at Vik

With capital controls still in place, a massively devalued krónur and galloping inflation, Iceland’s economy is not back to normal.European_Union Iceland Flag Icon

But it’s enough back to normal so that the window for Iceland’s accession to the European Union — or even, as was assumed during the worst days of its 2008 banking crisis, accession to the eurozone — is now very unlikely to happen.

Regardless of whether Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and the Framsóknarflokkurinn (Progressive Party) or Bjarni Benediktsson and the Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Independence Party) come out on top in Saturday’s election, they are likely to form a center-right coalition that will look to reverse many of the initiatives of the social democratic / leftist government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir over the past four years.

Above all, none of the Sigurðardóttir government’s priorities is more endangered than the project of Iceland’s EU accession.  Most news stories note that both a Progressive-led or Independence-led government would slow accession talks, but it seems likelier that Iceland’s next government would essentially end the talks indefinitely — they might not formally withdraw Iceland’s EU application, but they certainly won’t take any action to further discussions.

While Gunnlaugsson has called for a referendum on the eventual result of talks, his party  virtually alone among Iceland’s parties argues that the country should not reimburse the British, Dutch and other governments who reimbursed non-Icelandic depositors who put their savings in Icesave prior to its collapse in 2008.  Benediktsson is hardly any more pro-Europe — he’s argued that Iceland should break off talks altogether and focus on deeper global ties, such as Iceland’s recent free trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China — the first such free trade pact between a Chinese and a European country, likely due to Chinese eagerness to enhance its role in the Arctic north.

If for some reason a Progressive/Independence government does complete the accession talks, the result would be put to a referendum of Icelandic voters who remain highly skeptical of Brussels’s pernicious influence.

Sigurðardóttir’s government formally applied for membership in July 2009 and negotiations began a year later, but with her party likely to return to opposition, the window for Iceland’s EU membership seems likely to end with her government, as Alda Sigmundsdóttir writes today in The Guardian:

So, what makes the Progressive party so popular?

They are vehemently opposed to joining the European Union…. Indeed, many of the Progressives’ policies and declarations lean precipitously towards a new nationalism, with mildly xenophobic stances on issues such as immigration and asylum seekers, and party symbols that are vaguely reminiscent of fascism. The Progressive party was also the party that was most fiercely opposed to Iceland repaying the UK and Holland for the failure of the Icesave online bank.

If [Gunnlaugsson] wins, it will be because Icelanders fear abuse and exploitation by outside forces more than they do a return to the corrupt days of old.

Those are some fairly strong accusations, but I have to wonder if Icelandic voters aren’t simply being rational with respect to EU accession — they already have the benefits of free movement of goods and free borders with Europe, as well as much of the legal harmonization that typically comes with membership and a robust economic relationship with Europe that developed without Icelandic membership.  Why formalize the deal when they already have so many of the benefits of membership without any potential for considerable drawbacks that could harm Iceland’s cherished (and highly protected) fishing industry or the fierce national pride of a uniquely compelling nation that won its own independence from Denmark in 1944? Continue reading Iceland’s election spells the end for its EU accession hopes