Written by Edward Whitfield,
This year, Finland and Sweden celebrate the 20th anniversary of their accession to the European Union, as does Austria. This study is an examination of the events that surrounded this enlargement from the specific viewpoint of the first two countries, both Nordic states. The examination takes into account the relevant pressures and geopolitical and economic dynamics that shaped the conditions for the accession.
As the continent settled from the turmoil of the Second World War, important institutional formations developed. Relevant to this analysis was the Nordic Council, the European Economic Community, the European Free Trade Area that constituted the relationship between these institutions, and the rise of the USSR as a world power.
Initially the countries of the Nordic Council were wary of the EEC. Scandinavian social democracy was distinct from the Western European welfare model. The Nordic countries felt their policies of full employment, equality and solidarity were incompatible with the liberal economics of the EEC, with its high interest rates and deregulation of the market place. The Nordic countries saw EFTA as a way to cooperate economically with the EEC while maintaining political distinction and national sovereignty.
Finland and Sweden’s neutralities were also an issue. Soviet Russia bound Finland to having close relations with it after the World War period, considering the extensive land-border between the two countries. This relationship left Finland to explore awkwardly its relationships with the other Nordic countries, as well as with West Europe. Sweden based their neutrality on a historic position and in identifying as a Nordic geopolitical balancer and stabiliser.
However, two key developments altered the relationship between Finland and Sweden, and the EEC. Economic crisis reignited the Community’s integration process, resulting in plans for the Single Economic Area. Due to their own economic problems, Finland and Sweden feared isolation from their key markets in Europe if the internal market was to exclude non-members. Following this development was the deterioration of the USSR. This redefined the context in terms of both Scandinavian neutrality and European security, and by 1992 the European Community, Finland and Sweden were ready to negotiate terms for accession to the Union.
Throughout the lead-up to the 1995 enlargement, the European Parliament, through debates, commentary and resolutions, highlighted the importance of the accession of the Nordic countries to the European Union, in light of the dramatic events in the late 1980s, and the need to maintain continental stability. Through the negotiations, the issues of political openness, the democratic deficits, and legislative standards, were highlighted by the European Parliament, and in particular, how the inclusion of Finland and Sweden would improve the Union in terms of such matters.
Read the whole study on ‘The 1995 enlargement of the European Union‘ in PDF.