EUROPEAN UNION ADOPTS AMSTERDAM TREATY; KINKEL SEES NEED FOR FURTHER REFORMS
The European Union took a major step toward remaking itself this week, but not, Germany insists, the last step. The foreign ministers of the fifteen EU member states gathered in Amsterdam Thursday (October 2) to sign the treaty on EU reform and expansion drafted there this past summer (TWIG 6/20/97, p.1). Two days before the signing ceremony, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his cabinet formally endorsed the treaty and authorized Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel to sign on Germany’s behalf.
In Bonn’s view, Kinkel explained shortly before the signing, the Treaty of Amsterdam represents considerable progress in revamping the EU to make it more efficient and to prepare for the inclusion of new member states. It does not, however, resolve all the issues Germany considers central to the success of EU reform and expansion. Chief among those issues, Kinkel said, is the assignment of financial responsibilities among the member states. Germany, which pays in considerably more to the EU than it receives back from the various EU programs, is determined to see a "more just division of the fiscal burden, " Kinkel told reporters in Bonn after the cabinet reviewed the Amsterdam Treaty Tuesday (September 30). Bonn, he noted, contributes DM 22 billion (U.S. $12.4 billion) annually to fund the EU’s agricultural policy, but German farmers receive only half that sum back from Brussels. "I am satisfied with the results," Kinkel said in Amsterdam following the signing ceremony. Like several of his colleagues, he noted that further negotiations will be necessary to work out the details of institutional reform left open by the Amsterdam Treaty. The treaty, for example, limits the size of the EU Commission, the EU’s executive body, to twenty commissioners, but does not specify how commissioners will be chosen once the EU expands to more than twenty member states. "We still have a little bit of institutional touch-up work to do, particularly on the size of the Commission and the weighting of member states’ votes," Kinkel acknowledged. "I never expected a super-outcome from Amsterdam,"he added. "What we have here is fifteen countries settling on the least common denominator."
FOREIGN MINISTERS BEGIN REVIEWING DETAILS OF EXPANDING THE EUROPEAN UNION
The European Union is growing, but its budget won't be. The foreign ministers of the 15 member states met in Brussels Monday (September 15) to begin their review of a series of proposals on expanding the union that the EU Commission put forward this summer. Although a decision on which prospective member states will be invited to start negotiations will not be made until December, there was reportedly general consensus at Monday's meeting that the expansion should not be financed through an increase in the EU's budget. In mid-July, the Commission of the European Union issued its 1,200-page Agenda 2000, an outline of its vision of the EU's future and numerous recommendations on how that vision can be realized.
The most widely awaited of the commission's recommendations was its choice of candidates for EU membership: in the commission's view, membership talks should be opened in 1998 with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. The final decision on which nations will be invited to negotiate joining the EU rests with the EU's heads of state and government, who will be holding a summit to settle the matter at the end of the year.
The EU foreign ministers did not take a position on the commission's list of prospective members at Monday's meeting, but they nonetheless stressed that the membership talks tentatively scheduled to begin in early 1998 will not be the last. „The opening of talks with a few does not mean that all do not belong to the expansion process," explained Foreign Minister Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, current president of the EU Council. The commission, Poos added, did not dismiss the membership aspirations of any nation in putting forward its list of candidates for the first round of expansion. „All membership candidates must have a prospect to join," Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel of Germany insisted. Kinkel and his colleagues joined in reaffirming that the EU is not turning its back on the states interested in joining the EU but unlikely to be among those invited to begin membership negotiations next year. Incorporating new members ought not affect the scale of the contributions the current member states pay to Brussels to fund the EU's institutions and programs, the foreign ministers broadly agreed in Brussels. According to the German Press Agency (dpa), Germany, Austria, Great Britain and Sweden came out very firmly against raising the EU's budget at Monday's meeting and found much support for that position. The foreign ministers are in favor of holding to the current fiscal guidelines, which limit funding for the EU to no more than the equivalent of 1.27 percent of the EU's total GDP. Since, though, the EU's budget now stands at 1.17 percent of the European GDP, there is room for a modest expansion in EU spending while remaining within the current guidelines.
The foreign ministers' discussion of the EU's finances also touched upon the long-controversial issue of member contributions. The net payers - the nations that pay more in contributions than they receive back from EU programs - are pressing to have the other member states take up more of the EU's financial burden , while the net recipients have argued that EU expansion should not result in a reduction in the aid and subsidies they receive from Brussels. After Monday's meeting, Foreign Minister Kinkel said that Germany expects to remain a net payer but wants to see a „somewhat fairer settlement of costs." (related story page 4)
MINISTERS REVIEW DRAFT EU REFORM TREATY
With only two weeks to go before "Maastricht II" is to be signed, the foreign ministers of the fifteen European Union member states met in Luxembourg this week to address the remaining disagreements on reforming the EU and its institutions. The EU heads of state and government are scheduled to sign a treaty on EU reform during a two-day summit opening June 16. Among the issues reportedly still under discussion are asylum policy, border controls and the organization of the EU's top executive body, the EU Commission. The foreign ministers' meeting that began Monday (June 2) did not settle these matters, but it did make clear that there is strong support for a measure Germany opposes.
The draft of the Maastricht II treaty discussed in Luxembourg includes a provision obliging the EU member states to develop a common policy to reduce unemployment. Germany has responded coolly to proposals for a European employment policy in recent months, and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel made clear in Luxembourg that Bonn still has serious reservations. In the opinion of the German government, Kinkel said, the proposed communalization" (Vergemeinschaftung") of employment policy goes too far. Bonn believes job creation is most effectively achieved at the national level. It is therefore opposed to giving the EU additional authority in employment, to new EU expenditures for job creation, and to linking employment policy with the currency union.