Declaration on the enlargement of the European Union

Meeting of the Socialist International Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, Bucharest, 5-6 February 1999

The Socialist International Committee for Central and Eastern Europe, SICEE, meeting in Bucharest on 5-6 February 1999:

Underlines that the European Union (EU) is assuming an increasing role at a global level. This challenge requires a long term vision based on an enhanced ability to develop and promote its values and to manage this change.

Stresses the responsibility of social democrats in shaping the Europe of the future.

Underlines that the enlargement and restructuring of the EU is a process in which the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) are major active players.

Insists on the need to respect the "global and inclusive" membership strategy decided at Luxembourg which considers all 11 candidate countries at the same level and with the same rights in the accession process.

Recognises that the EU showed its political commitment by allocating important resources and developing specific communication channels in order to speed up the CEECs transition towards democracy and the market economy, in order to support sustainable progress and their appropriation of the acquis communautaire.

Stresses the need for a strengthened pre-accession strategy, for a more effective and structured dialogue, an adequate planning and appropriate monitoring mechanisms, together with various financial instruments, which will all together create a realistic framework aimed at assisting CEECs in their efforts to overcome the priority gaps, to meet the necessary standards for EU membership, and to compete on an equal footing.

Reaffirms that building this future Europe means an inclusive process very much dependent on the successful modernisation of the CEECs. The transition to the market economy and to a democratic society calls for unprecedented efforts to be made by those countries.

Underlines the need for a balanced approach to both economic innovation and social cohesion, a balance between real non-monopolistic market conditions and social solidarity, between effective economic reforms and social security networks.

Reinforces the principle of equality of opportunities in education, employment and a share in power, between women and men, combatting all forms of discrimination.

States that, in order to keep the economic and social changes in line with peoples' expectations and aspirations, the social democratic parties of the CEECs should undertake a series of decisive actions in order to strengthen public responsibility and to speed up the setting up of a framework of state authorities and public institutions able to develop and efficiently implement economic policies.

Underlines that a social democratic approach to enlargement means the development of secure markets, using the state regulatory capacity, attentively taking into account public opinion. It also means dismantling monopolies, allowing competition and widening consumer choice.

Reaffirms that the process of EU enlargement brings advantages both to member countries and candidate countries. For candidate countries, enlargement means: integration into a democratic environment with a beneficial influence on their social conditions, and the development of their own institutions; economic integration which potentially allows evolution of their economic and institutional systems; the ability to access EU financial resources; a guarantee against dangers of isolationism and nationalism that exist in some of the CEECs. For EU members, enlargement means better stability in the region; a larger European market; the increased innovative capacity of the CEECs to be utilised by and for the whole continent, better competition, and multiple opportunities for the whole of Europe to be a key player in the global arena.

Reaffirms as a priority the development of the transport and communication infrastructure as a basis for economic development and for lowering unemployment.

Underlines that EU enlargement would be more difficult without the necessary reforms and restructuring within the EU itself and underlines that the institutional reform of the EU and the enlargement process of the Union must be pursued at the same time, and moreover should be considered as an interactive process.

Expresses its hope that the next European Council adopt adequate decisions for the initiation of negotiations also with Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and the Slovak Republic.

Calls on all European socialists and social democratic parties to support a more open attitude to EU enlargement, to be ready to assist their partner parties in the CEECs in their efforts to integrate and to directly participate in the process of creating favourable conditions for the enlargement of the EU.

Hopes that the forthcoming Congress of the PES in Milan, on 1-2 March 1999, will bring about further progress in support of this process of cooperation between all European socialist and social democratic parties.

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