It is the fifth anniversary of the big bang EU enlargement. It worked, but it is hard to celebrate.
The leap in numbers helped bury the shreds of the rusted-out Iron Curtain, but then, just half a decade into the brightening future, world finance crunched, jobs for easterners in western Europe dried up, and they are flocking home, not so rosy either. The entry of ten new members in 2004, and two more in 2007 swelled European Union population by 26 percent, and extended its land surface by 34 percent. The bloc’s enthusiasm for enlargement, however, has cooled, and institutional reforms have stagnated. Some EU members, notably France and Germany, say if the Czech senate doesn’t ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, it will slam the door on new members. (Ireland and Poland haven’t given it their ‘yes’ either.) Croatia would be left hovering in the wings. It would further stall Turkey’s entry. Other EU wannabees would just stay in the waiting room too. The Enlargement Commissioner has appealed for reason. Ollie Rehn said: “While combatting the economic recession, we must not make EU enlargement a scapegoat for a problem it did not really create.” The euroscepticism of the Czech Republic, currently holding the rotating EU presidency, has not won it many plaudits. Its own government fell apart. Its senate vote on the Lisbon treaty is five days away.