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Britain: EU Expansion Threatened

Britain says the expansion of the European Union eastward and southward is threatened by widespread fear among the citizens of the continent. Britain is calling for European politicians to vigorously support EU expansion.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is making the case for EU enlargement in a speech Monday at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin. Mr. Straw says public support for European integration is far too low. He says the European Union faces a crucial test of leadership and legitimacy.

The challenge for European politicians, Mr. Straw says, is to address the fears their people have about losing control of sovereignty to EU headquarters in Brussels. He says that to counter those fears, the European Union must be ready to reform its institutions and deliver policies that the people want.

For example, Mr. Straw says the European Union can help member states fight transnational problems such as crime, pollution, and unemployment more effectively through joint action than any individual country can do on its own.

Mr. Straw says European leaders also need to redouble their efforts to support EU expansion ahead of crucial negotiations in the coming months. Ten potential new members are awaiting approval to join the European Union in 2004. A progress report on their status is due by the end of this year.

A number of obstacles could upset EU enlargement plans. Irish voters rejected the expansion treaty in a referendum last year. They are going to vote on the question again in the next few months.

Greece says it will veto any new members if Cyprus does not get in. And Germany is campaigning for Poland's membership, aggravating French concern about an eastward shift in power within the European Union