Richard Howitt: Time for consequences for broken promises

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Blockages to the European Union admitting new members are ‘intolerable’, with current EU members ‘hiding’ their opposition and a failure to suffer consequences for broken promises, hart-hitting evidence to a Committee of Inquiry on EU was told on Tuesday.

The evidence is being presented by British Labor Euro MP Richard Howitt to the UK Parliament (House of Lords Select Committee) as the MEP responsible for overseeing Macedonia’s EU-accession and who serves on the joint committee with the fellow EU-applicant Turkey.

In his evidence, Howitt says in hindsight it was wrong for former British PM Tony Blair to agree EU membership of Cyprus before reconciliation on the island. It is ‘perverse’ in the current situation with Greece that the EU is failing to put conditions on Athens to solve the longstanding name dispute with Greece, he says.

Amongst a series of practical proposals, Howitt suggests forcing of open votes on accession issues in the European Council, introduction of clauses in future accession treaties to impede future members from wielding their own vetoes, mandating the European Commission to report on the ‘costs of non-enlargement’ on the countries of the region and for the EU itself and appointing an arbitrator to resolve bilateral disputes between current and future members.

“It is essential to avoid a missing piece of the jigsaw for all or some of the countries of what I prefer to call South-East Europe. The real alternative of non-enlargement for the countries of former Yugoslavia in particular would be under-development, instability and continuing cross-border threat to EU countries of illegal migration, other forms of trafficking, crime and even return to conflict,” Howitt says.

Referring to Macedonia, he says that “the failure to agree a date to start accession talks with Skopje in particular is not simply a source of deep frustration within the country with the most longstanding candidate status, but where continuing delay is my view threatens progress of other countries in the region and undermines the credibility of the whole enlargement process itself.

“The degree to which bilateral issues have become enmeshed in and obstructed the EU accession process – despite a frequent pretence otherwise – has become intolerable. The Committee is right to address it,” Howitt says.

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