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Small countries in an enlarging EU - size is important

Small and medium-sized member countries such as Finland need to find allies among the large countries of the European Union and cooperate more closely with them in order to make their views heard.

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Small countries in an enlarging EU – size is important Press release 29 April 2004 Small and medium-sized member countries such as Finland need to find allies among the large countries of the European Union and cooperate more closely with them in order to make their views heard. In the coming years the best friend of a small EU country will not perhaps be the Commission or some other small country but a large member country. This is the opinion of Esko Antola, Jean Monnet Professor at the University of Turku and Director of the Jean Monnet Centre, in his book on the small member countries of the Union Onko koolla väliä? Pienet maat EU:n päätöksenteossa (Is Size Important? Small Countries in the EU Decision-Making Process). The book forms part of Sitra’s Europe 2020 research programme over the years 2000-2005, in which Antola is responsible for the section on the status of the small countries in the Union. The final version of the book is to be published in English but because the topic is so important a separate Finnish-language version covering the basic con-cepts is being issued now. Sitra hopes that it will end up in the hands of everybody interested in the role played by Finland in the EU’s decision-making. Antola takes the view that in the enlarged EU members should be divided up into groups of large, medium-sized and small countries. Following enlargement the Union will comprise six very small countries and six large member countries. The group of medium-sized countries, which includes Finland, will constitute a majority within the new Union. After enlargement the small and medium-sized countries will constitute a clear majority and they will have to re-assess their strategies and choices in order to ensure their ability to influence the Union’s policies. Hitherto the small countries have not formed a coherent group within the EU. In the enlarged Union these states will be even more split. Traditionally the core group of small countries has been made up of those states that support strong institutions and binding decisions, a group to which Finland, too, has belonged. These countries are seen by Antola as collectivists. They have based their policy on the belief that strong institutions help to even out the differences and power resulting from differing size of member states. The small countries see the Commission, in particular, as a balancing and neutral force on which they can rely for support. Sweden and Denmark have pursued a different line, emphasising the importance of the Council of the European Union. In their view the small countries can best achieve their goals in a union of governments. Antola regards as pragmatic those countries that have doubts about deepening integration and strengthening the influence of the Union’s institutions but see the value of integration in pursuing their own aims. In an enlarging Union the equality of the member countries will be put to the test. When the draft of the new constitution is put into practice, the traditional key expression of equality, namely the revolving chairmanship, will be history. In the future the small and medium-sized countries will have to face the challenge of how the paragraphs of the constitution are to be applied when it comes to the question of the new system for appointing a chairman or organising the work of the reformed Commission, for example. An even greater problem for the small and medium-sized member countries than the composition of the different bodies and the rules of decision-making will be to guarantee uniform and fair treatment. For example, in the matter of the stability and growth pact the large countries are treated with considerable understanding. It might justifiably be asked whether such an understanding attitude would be likely if the small and medium-sized countries were to run into similar problems. Another challenging question is how the success of the small and medium-sized countries in putting into effect the Lisbon strategy, for example, might be exploited in order to enable them to wield more influence. This is also Finland’s problem. From the point of view of the small countries worst scenario is if the large countries increase their mutual cooperation outside the EU’s bodies, in the form of directorates, for example. In the present governmental negotiations the traditional France-Germany power axis has been joined by a third partner, Britain. The large member states have shown a growing desire to agree important matters among themselves and then present them to the other member states for approval. Further details: Professor Esko Antola, tel. +358-400-824 227 Project Director Peter Ekholm, tel. +358-9-6189 9235 Publication Onko koolla väliä? Pienet maat EU:n päätöksenteossa (Is Size Important? Small Countries in the EU Decision-Making Process), Esko Antola, Sitra 265, ISBN 951-37-4167-1, ISSN 0785-8388 (Sitra). Price € 26, Edita Publishing Oy, Helsinki 2004. Sales: Edita and bookshops.

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