New EU time

Readers' views No 245, November 2004
OECD Observer

Ambassador John Rowan of Ireland writes in your May 2004 issue (“EU enlargement and the OECD: A new era”) that OECD membership has been a crucial part of his country’s well-known success story. The ambassador also recalls that of the 10 new member states of the European Union, only four are OECD members.

Will those new EU members who desire OECD membership be admitted to the organisation? They would certainly benefit. Particularly in transition (or converging) economies, the crucial lacking element is often a well-established policymaking and policy evaluation framework. Despite sometimes large bureaucracies, these countries’ policy processes are often short on sophisticated analysis and long on political intentions.

In terms of transmitting policy know-how, the OECD’s element of peer learning (and peer pressure) is a unique and indispensable complement to the external policy advising role offered by other international organisations, such as the international financial institutions. The OECD’s outreach programmes for nonmember states offer an important stop-gap to help ensure sound policy approaches in these countries, but without the peerto- peer interaction experienced by member states, much of the OECD’s unique advantage may be lost.

The OECD’s own enlargement strategy paper from May 2004 outlined the difficulties of taking on new members. There are concerns not only about the size of the OECD, but also a desire to ensure that new members make a contribution to the organisation. There are now approximately 16 states that have expressed interest in joining the OECD, according to the report.

Clearly, potential new members will be examined for their “like-mindedness” and as “significant players,” among other criteria. While “significant player” may refer to an ability to contribute new ideas rather than just money, the fact remains that the remaining new EU members that are not OECD members (Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovenia) collectively represent a population of only about 11 million.

Yet, through its genesis in the OEEC, the OECD has a unique historical bond with Europe. Moreover, Europe is one of the major centres in the world today representing the OECD’s shared values of democracy and a commitment to market principles. Helping achieve sound policymaking approaches in the new EU member states and encouraging their reform processes through peer-to-peer relations would strengthen the economic and political situation of the OECD as a whole. One would hope these countries are given a place towards the front of the applications queue.

—Ted Fisher, Budapest, Hungary

©OECD Observer No 245, November 2004

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