Two considerations: arresting the Union's “deepening”, and the scale of immigration

Federal Trust for Education and Research

Commission strategy document, British attitudes towards enlargement
 
There was little or no reaction in the national media to the release of the Commission's November strategy document on enlargement. Attitudes towards the enlargement of the European Union in the UK are informed by two major considerations. British public and political sentiment to enlargement, which remains at present broadly favourable, is likely over the coming months and years to be a function of these two underlying considerations.
 
First, enlargement is seen by some analysts as a means by which the European Union's 'deepening' integration might be arrested: by increasing the diversity and unwieldiness of the Union. Given the balance of political opinion in the UK, this analysis is central to the UK's general enthusiasm for continued enlargement.
 
Secondly and contrastingly, domestic political debate is increasingly coloured by recent experiences of very high levels of immigration from those states which joined the Union in 2004, particularly Poland. The Government has been criticised for its gross underestimate of the likely scale of immigration from the new member states, and, while the population's first-hand experience of the "Polish plumber" has been overwhelmingly positive, there is a growing belief that the strain placed on public services, and on certain sections of the British labour market, has been excessive. Reflecting – and perhaps exacerbating – this appreciation, the Government has temporarily restricted the influx of workers from Romania and Bulgaria. Enthusiasm for further enlargement in British public opinion may therefore in future be dependent upon the perceived likelihood of large-scale immigration to Britain from particular candidate countries. An additional factor, domestic concern over the effective integration of Muslim minorities into British life, translates into greater concern over the effects of prospective large-scale immigration from countries such as Albania and Turkey, should they accede to the Union.
 
Kosovo / Serbia & Montenegro
 
The British Government, like many other EU member states, recognised Kosovo the day after its declaration of independence from Serbia and Montenegro. Foreign Secretary David Miliband has stressed that Kosovo should not represent any kind of precedent for other regions in Europe with aspirations of greater autonomy; notably the Basque in Spain. The British Government considers Kosovo's declaration the conclusion of the process mandated by UN Resolution 1244[1], and continues to take a firm line with regard to Serbia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Coverage of this issue in the media has not been extensive, though public opinion has not shown any signs of unease at the Government's approach. The British Government seems willing to smooth existing difficulties in the relationship between Serbia and the EU as a quid pro quo for the Union’s recognition of Kosovan independence, but this willingness stops short of a commitment to Serbian membership of the EU by a particular date.


[1] Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Kosovo: Is It Legal?, available at: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/blogs/david_miliband/archive/2008/02/17/16241.aspx (last access: 03.03.2008).