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Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for Enlargement: "the enlargement fatigue is a symptom rather than a cause"

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Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for Enlargement: "the enlargement fatigue is a symptom rather than a cause"

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Olli Rehn is a man with a challenge … he is the EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement. Somehow he has to balance the needs of the current members with the potential advantages and disadvantages of those who would like to join the bloc – and all the while, recent opinion polls show an increase in so-called “Enlargement Fatigue”. Olli Rehn has a tightrope to walk, marrying up the EU’s expansion policy while reassuring sceptical voters.

EuroNews:
“Commissioner Rehn, welcome to EuroNews, do you think that the European Council has officially declared that there’s an enlargement fatigue in the European Union?”

Olli Rehn: “We talk much about the enlargement fatigue or the enlargement blues, but we could actually talk as well about the unemployment blues, or the globalization blues, or welfare state blues. In other words the enlargement fatigue is a symptom rather than a cause and causes are found in the social discontent that stems from higher unemployment and a sense of insecurity among our citizens.” EuroNews: “The member states admit that a new treaty is needed before to enlarge again and this is the first time that they claim it…”

Olli Rehn:
“That is the essence of the soft power of the European Union, to encourage democratic and economic transformation in the candidate countries, now in South Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and Turkey. At the same time the reforming process related to this mechanism is moving forward, which are not mutually exclusive, it’s important to continue both to deepen and to gradually widen the European Union. That has been the history and the story of the EU, therefore we have to maintain both deepening of the European integration and gradual widening of peace and liberty.”

EuroNews:
“If the people of Europe are not part of this process how could we justify that enlargement is a matter of exporting democratic values?”

Olli Rehn:
“It is indeed extremely important that the EU’s enlargement policy, like any other policy of the European Union, has broad public support. And that’s why first of all we have to have the product right, which means that we have to consolidate our enlargement agenda not overstretch our-selves, while at the same time we have to communicate better on the successes and the challenges of the enlargement. Capacity of integration is a very important consideration also in the future, which means that we indeed have to put all our house in order, both in terms of reforming our decision making and reviewing our financial perspectives.”

EuroNews:
“Aren’t you personally afraid to lose Turkey?”

Olli Rehn: “I must say that I am a bit worried of certain spinning: that Europe is losing Turkey. Because those who spin like that, especially in the British and American medias, they must also be careful that it does not become a self fulfilling prophecy. Some people in Turkey take this debate literally and it contributes to the negative spiral, to the vicious circle which we are currently experiencing in our relations. And some people in the public debate tend to forget that the reason why the EU took the decision to not open negotiations in eight chapters, while continuing it in twenty-seven chapters, this is also the result of Turkey not meeting its legal, contractual obligations.”

EuroNews:
“Bulgaria and Romania are going to be soon new members of the EU. Do you think that things will change?”

Olli Rehn:
“It will change life, or at least the conditions of life, for thirty millions individuals, thirty millions citizens of Bulgaria and Romania who are now, or as of 1st of January, European citizens as well. For the European Union it is an important step because it completes the fifth round of enlargement, which mainly took place in 2004. It wipes out the rubble of the Berlin wall, of the Iron curtain, and it also extends the European Union to the Black Sea, and makes Europe a very significant power in South Eastern Europe.”