In The Press

Enlargement Benefits: The benefits to business of a bigger EU (in European Voice)

7 May 2009

By Roland Rudd

It is not just new member states that have benefited from EU enlargement (Enlargement has energised Europe, Donald Tusk), but more established ones too. Indeed, some of the greatest benefits of the 2004 and 2007 enlargement have been experienced in countries like Britain. This is perhaps reward for the daring decision that it took in 2004, along with only two other member states, to open its labour market to the accession states upon their entry to the EU.

In the UK, in addition to cross-party political support, there is strong backing from the business community for both the previous and prospective future enlargement. Notwithstanding troubled economic times, the business community remains committed to extending the fruits of EU membership.

As a result, senior figures from the British business community took the opportunity on the fifth anniversary of the 2004 accession to point out loud and clear that enlargement has been a resounding success. The statements came from business leaders from a range of companies, including WPP, Tesco, KPMG and Centrica, who also affirmed their support for free movement of labour.

Their views were reflected in a poll of London Business Leaders, with 68% of respondents agreeing that all EU countries should open their labour markets to the new member states while 70% of those polled voiced their support for Turkey's membership of the EU if it can meet the same requirements as other new member states. This support is reflected in their actions, with several leading companies such as Tesco and Aviva, expanding their operations to the eastern Europe and Turkey.

Perhaps it is not surprising that business is pro-enlargement. In addition to opening new markets, enlargement creates fresh business opportunities by extending trading opportunities and labour flexibility. These principles are of enormous significance as Europe charts its path to economic recovery.

While enlargement has come under great scrutiny, and criticism in some circles, British Business is one constituency that should remain loyal to it through thick and thin.

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