The Enlargement of the European Union has laid the Groundwork for European Integration
The accession of Bulgaria and Romania marks the completion of the historic round of enlargement of May 2004. After the enlargements of 1973, 1981, 1986 and 1995, the European Union has thus successfully completed its fifth round of enlargement..
In his famous speech of 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman, French foreign minister in the post-war period, proposed the creation of a common High Authority for the coal and steel sector - the origin of European integration:
"Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries. With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point. It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe."
In his proposal Robert Schuman was guided purely by peace policy considerations aimed at overcoming centuries of Franco-German animosity. By establishing a common economic policy in the coal and steel industry, the key areas of the national economies at the time, the ground was to be prepared for the common future of both nations - a future in which differences of interest would be settled not on the battle field but at the negotiating table.
A new millennium has just begun and the EU has become a model peace project which is recognised around the world. Austria, which joined the Union in the fourth round of enlargement in 1995, is again located at the heart of Europe and has also returned to the continent’s intellectual centre of gravity. Because of its special geographic position and deeply rooted close historical ties with the Western Balkan states, Austria is in favour of securing and strengthening the European perspective for these states. The enlargement round of 2004 and the accession of Bulgaria and Romania thus represent a first major step on the road towards overcoming the artificial division of Europe.
Difficulties may occur along the road towards enlargement. The recent round of enlargement which was completed by the accession of Romania and Bulgaria made it very clear that the negotiation process is by no means self-evident, as is also illustrated by the current accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey. The EU has refined and adapted the mechanisms to enable it to respond to future challenges. While the EU remains a centre of attraction for the outside world, it also has to ensure that its internal structures continue to function.
Only in this way can enlargement go hand in hand with a deeper, intensified European integration. In the course of this process it is not always possible, however, to avoid setbacks and crises. But a healthy process of questioning and doubting will provide us with even more powerful reasons to give the European project new momentum.
The Roman poet Terentius once said that dispute is a way for friends to renew their amity. This is also true for the EU