Yesterday the citizens of
San Marino voted on becoming an EU
member state. But is that even possible?
As Brussels braces itself for the inevitable disappointment of a referendum on EU accession in Iceland, when or if that ever takes place, it will come as little comfort that another non-EU European country rejected EU membership yesterday.
Unlike an eventual
Had yesterday's vote gone a different way it would have thrown up a potentially awkward question for the EU – how small is too small? Can a microstate of 33,000 become a full-fledged EU member state equal to
The republic is ten times smaller than the EU's smallest member state at the moment,
So if this kind of ratio is acceptable, is it really such a leap to think of
The ‘yes' campaign largely focused on the rights given to full EU citizens and the fact that San Marino should be able to shape the laws it has to follow by being part of the common market. Sammarinese citizens cannot work in the EU without a visa and they are not eligible for other benefits like medical care in an EU member state or reduced EU rates of tuition at European universities.
In a report on the status of EU relations with Andorra, Monaco and San Marino published last year, the European Commission said the current status of EU relations with these three countries is not tenable because it is fragmented and poorly codified, relying on a system of unofficial linkages. The report outlined four options for the microstates: a series of bilateral treaties as is the case with
The report noted that "the EU institutions are currently not adapted to the accession of such small-sized countries," and also noted that the administrative capacity of these states would likely be overburdened by the responsibilities of membership. It also unsurprisingly ruled out a Switzerland-like arrangement, given that this relationship is currently fraught with problems and the Commission is pressuring
It's not clear that EEA membership would be a desireable outcome for
Eventually, these questions will have to be sorted out.