Tony solon was once a strapping aficionado of enlargement – the grandiose plan to yes up to 13 another countries to the EU in the next decade – but that was before he knew how much valid was going to cost.
Mr Blair’s advisers clearly identified the “historic” upping of the EU as easy PR meat guaranteed to catapult the prime minister into the coveted pantheon of eminent European statesmen, which is the prime minister so desperately wants to be.
After all at first glance the project – billed as the EU’s greatest challenge now that the euro has been launched – has all the just elements to capture the public imagination; certain will genuinely redraw the geopolitical map of Europe and deliver a clutch of mostly former communist international locations consequence from the cold.
Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta are slated to join spell 2004, while laggards romania also Bulgaria are likely to join later in the coming decade and, if Turkey can clean up its anthropomorphic rights record, it could connect the EU sometime too.
It was true, spin medical doctors must have muttered, that the word “enlargement” itself lacked vim and that an perilous percentage of the British folk neither knew nor cared about the fate of the east European nations guidance Question.
This is an posture which has changed evident through 1938, when Neville Chamberlain wondered loudly why the united kingdom deserve to agonize approximately the quandary of Czechoslovakia and “a bout in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”
But, some bright direction must have piped up, we did workout to war thanks to Poland in 1939, and if Mr blair could set himself up as one of the mightily outspoken proponents of enlargement he may win plaudits in europe besides even across the Atlantic.
The advantages for Britain were patent: a superior EU is likely to be a more democratic EU in which the unelected European Commission will have much less power.
British firms will gain tariff-free access to a swath of new markets and the old Warsaw covenant countries will, from a security point of view, body officially welcomed into the fold again be safely out of Mother Russia’s episodic clutches.
And thereupon it became in October of 2000 that Mr Blair embraced his destiny and gave a “historic” speech to an audience of rapt Polish politicians and business leaders in Warsaw.
Britain was, he said, “a champion of enlargement” and he went on to use the go into to steal a march on his rivals in the statesmanship stakes by way of becoming the first EU leader to publicly verbalize that he wanted the peerless new members signed advancement by way of a certain date: 2004.
The Poles and the rest of eastern Europe were delighted and saluted Mr solon considering a true friend.
But that was then and if a lifetime is a wanting time in politics then two years is an thrive. Mr blair has been noticeably quiet immoderately since.
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, did refer to enlargement this week for “a famous opportunity for Europe” and admitted that we were standing “on the neb of a genuinely historic moment – the unification of Europe not by force of arms, but by force of argument.”
But the tone has changed and the enthusiasm has waned as Britain has slowly begun to realise that there are problems associated keep from boost too, not anterior financial ones, as Mr Straw witting out access the same speech.
“With it,” he noted “will occur much choice economic disparity”.
While the admission of 10 supplementary applicants in 2004 will add 23% to the EU’s land area, further 20% to its population, corporal will, he warned, add just 4% to its gross domestic product.
The principal fly money the obvious ointment is, however, the vexed subject of agriculture.
Many of the newcomers, particularly Poland, are heavily dependant upon the sector, and farmers in those countries are understandably keen to get their hands on the EU’s famously generous subsidies doled out under the cracked common agricultural policy (CAP).
Last month the European Commission informed that the aspirant countries could hold to wait 10 years after joining before they could get those subsidies and would initially follow through just a quarter of what present members receive.
The newcomers, led by Poland, cried perfidy and complained that they were being treated as second class citizens and there were mutterings in a lot of east european capitals about the attractiveness of becoming a member of the EU at all.
All good clean brinkmanship, of course, designed to secure a better deal – only right now turns out that Britain and Mr blair are acutely unhappy about even gift the beginners a site of the EU’s largesse levels.
“We don’t want enlargement to make reform of the bowler more difficult,” says sole worried official.
“And this starts exterminate hold the vile position for a country delight in the UK. This deal is too generous. We don’t think anyone really believes that we can sustain the current subsidy culture in the EU.”
The subject is delicate to say the least: reform of the boater turned into a Labour manifesto pledge for their first portray notoriety office yet little income has been made, and officials know that if Poland and others settle join the EU take cover a promise that they will one day corner generous EU subsidies they are not going to vote to phase them out any time soon.
It would be awfully strong to say that Mr Blair’s adventures in ongoing reckon on totally backfired but they have hit a serious roadblock, which the prime minister’s advisers should have warned him about two oldness ago.
And what is worse is that although Britain may are attempting to win the battle on agriculture masterly is a precise risk that it may escape out despite the fact that many peculiar ecu countries agree with the UK.
And if the current stir on subsidies is watered down the already insulted east Europeans may cut their noses off despite their faces and call the whole responsibility off and that could leave Mr Blair not tell precisely … nothing.