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Chapter 26 - External Relations
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December 2004

Background

The external relations chapter covers the Community’s economic and trade relations with third countries and international organisations as well as co-operation and assistance. The main components are the common commercial policy and the development policy of the Community. It is not to be confused with the chapter on Common Foreign and Security Policy (chapter 27), which deals with actual political relations between the EU and non-member countries and international organisations.

For the single market and customs union of the EU to function, it is necessary to have a unified set of import and export rules and to be able to speak with a single voice in relations with non-member countries. This is why the Member States have given the EU institutions a mandate to negotiate on their behalf in the area of external relations. The common commercial policy has particular political significance as the external aspect of the single market and as the policy of the largest trading power in the world.

The Community’s trade policy is to a large extent derived from the agreements concluded under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The fundamental basis for the common commercial policy is the common customs tariff vis-ŕ-vis third countries. Except for the common export and import rules, the common commercial policy also covers rules on anti-dumping and safeguard measures, measures against subsidised imports or illicit trade practices as well as quantitative restrictions and foreign policy-related trade bans (embargoes and sanctions). The Community has concluded many commercial agreements with third countries. Some of these cover all aspects of trade relations, others only certain products or groups of products. The agreements also vary widely in terms of the scope of concessions granted. Under the General System of Preferences (GSP) the EU grants trade preferences for exports from developing countries.

Development aid on Community level is a complement to Member States’ aid schemes. Through structures for trade and co-operation focussed on poverty reduction and reform of social and economic structures, assistance is allocated to a large number of third countries.

All candidate countries have accepted the acquis in the field of external relations and there is a good level of alignment of the candidate countries external policies with the EU’s external policies. The candidate countries are already associated with the Community’s trade policy through the Association Agreements and close co-operation takes place in international fora such as the WTO. As a future member state, each candidate country will have to renounce its own trade and economic agreements with third countries, adhere to the agreements concluded by the Community and its Member States and take over the commitments taken by the Community in international trade fora such as the WTO. After enlargement, the Community shall also speak and negotiate on behalf of its new Member States in the WTO.

State of Play

The chapter was closed with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia in December 2002. The chapter has also been closed with Bulgaria and Romania in December 2004. No transitional arrangements have been accepted.

Compliance with the acquis

The latest assessment of each candidate country’s compliance with the acquis under this chapter heading, can be found in the 2004 Regular Reports and in the Comprehensive Monitoring Reports, available at:
http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/archives/key_documents/reports_2004_en.htm.

Country by country

Bulgaria

  • Chapter opened: first half of 2000
  • Status: closed in December 2004 (provisionally closed in second half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Cyprus (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 1999)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Czech Republic (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Estonia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Hungary (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in second half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Latvia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 2000
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Lithuania (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 2000
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Malta (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 2000
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Poland (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in second half of 1999)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Romania

  • Chapter opened: first half of 2000
  • Status: closed in December 2004 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Slovakia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 2000
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2000)
  • Transitional arrangements: none

Slovenia (New Member State)

  • Chapter opened: first half of 1999
  • Status: Closed December 2002 (provisionally closed in first half of 2001)
  • Transitional arrangements: none
- updated: 17/12/2004
 
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