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Sunday 21 January 2018

Officials worried enlargement could break EU

James Downey

James Downey

FEARS were expressed as early as 1980 that further enlargements of the European Union could place an intolerable strain upon its administrative machinery.

State papers opened under the 30-year rule show that officials were already worried about the effects upon the Brussels bureaucracy of the 1973 entry of Ireland, Britain and Denmark into what was then the European Community.

An EU committee dubbed 'The Three Wise Men' commented: "The sheer burden of business has become unmanageable and the way it is handled has not helped."

Bureaucrats and outside advisers were fearful in 1980 about the entry of Greece in the following year. Spain and Portugal were also due to join soon after.

The papers in the National Archives do not mention the likely difficulties owing to the relative economic backwardness of these three countries at that time.

Instead, they concentrate on the problems that had been caused by the entry of Ireland, Britain and Denmark seven years earlier.

Implicit in their comments, however, is the added strain that they felt was certain to arise from the entry of a further three countries which were then at a low stage of economic and political development.

Considering the recent economic difficulties of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, a comment by John Wyles in the 'Financial Times' on December 16, 1980 seems apposite.

"The European Community resembles a once-exclusive gentlemen's club which, having thrown open its doors, belatedly realises it ought to lock up the silver and rewrite the rule book."

Irish Independent

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