“EU Accession from Within?—An Introduction”
(available to read for free for a limited time) in the Yearbook of European Law.
Phoebus Athanassiou and Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou
Publication Date: Apr 24, 2014
Publication Name: Yearbook of European Law (OUP)
EU enlargement is both a policy and a process describing the expansion of the EU to neighbouring countries. EU membership is open to any European country that will satisfy the conditions for accession as set out in Article 49 TEU. As a corollary to the ‘right of accession’ of states to the EU, the EU Treaties have recently provided for the member states’ right to withdraw from the EU. This right has been enshrined in Article 50 TEU, formally introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon. The formal recognition of the member states’ right to withdraw warrants, in itself, special attention as regards its scope and the concrete consequences of its exercise, all the more so since there are, today, signals that this newly attributed right could be exercised in the foreseeable future. The newly attributed right of withdrawal opens up new lines of enquiry relevant to other distinct scenarios, with no less of an impact on the EU’s composition. One such scenario is that of the separation or ‘secession’ of part of the territory of an EU member state, motivated by a desire for national independence. Recent months have seen a flurry of activity and academic debate on the likely implications of secession of part of the territory of certain member states, followed by the creation of newly independent states. While secession within the EU may be within the realm of the possible, several questions spring to mind when reviewing such a scenario, starting with the future of a newly created independent state in the EU. Would this future lie ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the EU? This would be up to the newly created state to determine, as a sovereign state in international law. In case the newly created state decides to tie up its future to the one of the other members of the European family, the next question would be ‘how’ this is to be achieved? As newly created states wishing to join the EU would originate in an existing (rump) member state they would be familiar with the various EU principles, rules and procedures. Taking into consideration the ‘roots’ of a newly created state within the European family and its previous compliance with EU policies and practices (albeit in a different legal form and capacity) could an ‘automatic’ right to EU accession for the newly created state be envisaged? And, even if there is no such right of automatic accession to the EU, what would be the parameters for an eventual ‘internal’ enlargement of the EU? To what extent would this differ from the stated policy and process of EU enlargement as enshrined in Article 49 TEU? The debate is on-going in various member states, while views on the matter have also been expressed at the European level. These are only a few of the very fundamental and valid points raised by a secession scenario within the EU. Many more questions spring to mind regarding, in particular, the future of the people living in the newly created states. Their people would normally find themselves outside the territorial scope of the EU, even if for a limited period of time only, with all the implications that this will have with respect to their rights as EU citizens. It is clearly in the interest of such citizens that their rights deriving from EU citizenship are maintained and/or protected during any transitional period from independence to full EU membership, so that they do not end-up being treated as third country nationals would. Is it at all possible to ensure the continuing enjoyment of their rights as (former) EU citizens? But this is yet another story.
Phoebus Athanassiou and Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou: The authors are, respectively, Senior Legal Counsel, European Central Bank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and Assistant Professor, Law School, UCLan Cyprus. E-mail: SLaulhe-Shaelou@uclan.ac.uk.