Sweden joins the EU
In the neighboring countries, however, a new interest in the EU arose when it became clear that the internal market was becoming an economic success. In May 1992, an agreement was finalized with the seven EFTA countries. The so-called EEA agreement admitted EFTA into the EU internal market, on condition that the EFTA countries approved the rules that applied and promised to comply with future decisions as well. Some transparency and bargaining power were included.
Before the agreement had time to enter into force, the effects of the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism had changed the political conditions. Sweden, Finland and Austria, which had previously distanced themselves from the EU due to their policy of neutrality, now felt free to apply for regular membership of the EU. Norway also submitted a membership application.
On 1 January 1995, the EU grew to 15 member states with three new members: Sweden, Finland and Austria. On the other hand, the Norwegian people said no to the EU for the second time in a referendum and Norway remained in the EEA agreement.
As defined by acronymmonster, the EU was in a hurry. The plan was that in January 2002 by the Economic and Monetary Union ‘s final phase, replacing the franc, the German mark, the escudo and other currencies against the euro notes and coins. But first, countries must clean up their economies to meet entry requirements and to be in a roughly similar economic situation.
The EU is expanding to the east
At the same time, the EU must take responsibility for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which were poor and politically unstable after freeing themselves from communism. The EU began by providing generous financial and practical support for the reconstruction of these countries. In part, it was a matter of hoping to avoid new applications for membership of the Union. When these applications came anyway, it was clear to everyone that the EU could not say no to a reunification of the Europe that had been divided for 50 years.
The EU needed to adapt its treaty to eastern enlargement, but the question of what a union with twice as many member states should look like was too difficult to answer. Instead, the Amsterdam Treaty, signed in October 1997, provided , inter alia, a coordinated employment policy, a (future) asylum and immigration policy and, from 1999, incorporated border cooperation under way into a separate agreement (Schengen) with the EU.
Foreign and security policy was developed so that the EU would have the opportunity to use military means to intervene in crises. However, it took some time before the latter became a reality – in the spring of 2003, the first military operation could be sent out, a peacekeeping force in unstable Macedonia.
In Eastern and Central Europeans, impatience grew. Membership negotiations have been ongoing since 1998 with twelve countries – Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia – but the date of entry seemed to be delayed. In 2000, the Treaty of Nice was adopted, which resolved some – but not all – institutional issues that led to the EU almost doubling its membership.
Democracy and transparency
For a long time, the governments of the EU countries have tried to introduce greater transparency in EU cooperation. This has led to more information for the press, televised policy debates in the Council of Ministers and public decision minutes from the Council when it enacts laws. Parliament has always been a very open institution with the possibility for citizens to follow both plenary and committee debates.
In the spring of 2001, the EU adopted a principle of openness to EU documents. It goes very far according to European conditions but not as far as the Swedish one. The rules require the institutions to register all documents and respond to a request for access to a document within 15 working days. There must be a well-founded motive for refusing to disclose a document.
The EU’s latest treaty (see Progress) has also opened up for greater transparency and influence. The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009, made, for example, legislative meetings of the Council of Ministers open meetings. National parliaments have access to new EU proposals at the same time as their governments and have the opportunity to slow down legislative proposals that do not respect the principle of subsidiarity. The treaty has given civil society a role as a consultative body, and the European Commission regularly consults interest groups on new proposals.
Finally, the “citizens’ initiative” has been added where citizens can request new EU laws. It requires that you can present one million signatures from at least seven EU countries within one year.
A first citizens’ initiative was approved in March 2014, which called for the EU to guarantee all citizens access to fresh water and resulted in stricter requirements for national authorities. The European Commission has since followed up the initiative “Stop animal testing” with slightly stricter legislation as well as introduced better transparency in how EU bodies conduct their scientific evaluation.
However, the initiative “Protect the rights of the fetus” was rejected. Two dozen other initiatives never received enough votes.