Policy Focus | It’s time for a credible enlargement perspective

Policy Focus | It’s time for a credible enlargement perspective

On Wednesday 12 October, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi will present the 2022 Enlargement Package to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee, in a moment in which enlargement policy has regained momentum in Europe.

In the last few years, the European Union (EU) has shown willingness to deepen the enlargement process. In March 2020, the Council endorsed a new methodology for enlargement to boost the credibility, dynamism and predictability of the EU accession process, and opened negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. In October 2020, the European Commission launched its Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans to support their economic recovery and convergence with the EU, while the European Parliament reiterated its support for the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia last July, highlighting the reforms that have been implemented as well as the work that must be completed.

Within the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine, in June 2022, the European Council granted candidate status to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova and recognised a clear future perspective for Georgia. However, while Western Balkan countries have embraced these applications, they have been insisting on speeding up their integration as some of them have been working toward accession for the last 20 years. The recent first meeting of the European Political Community launched by French President Emmanuel Macron offers a potential space to accelerate the integration of candidates countries, although the leaders who took part in the meeting stressed that its purpose was not to replace or duplicate the enlargement process.

Key texts:

EM Serbia: The European Union New Methodology and its long-term impact on accession negotiations

EM North Macedonia: Statement in reference to the proposal to remove the veto and start negotiations for the membership of Republic of North Macedonia in the European Union

Upcoming dates:

12 October: College Meeting

13 October: AFET committee meeting

20-21 October: European Council

The European Movement International position

The European Movement International unequivocally supports the enlargement process as one of the most successful policies for EU integration, one that holds real transformative impact. A credible and positive membership perspective is necessary to address the multiple factors that negatively impact the enlargement of the EU. Moreover, it is key to strengthening a value-driven enlargement process, one that duly involves civil society organisations and enhances citizens’ trust in the process.

As stated in our position on “Promoting peace, stability, and investment in the Western Balkans”, the EU must accelerate the accession process with countries aspiring to join the bloc and committed to undergoing the necessary reforms. The longer Western Balkan countries are uncertain about their accession prospects, the more pro-European democratic forces within the region, in particular young people, will turn their backs on the EU. A positive enlargement narrative should focus on the way in which enlargement has been proven to establish peace and security, using the positive examples of previous accessions, while acknowledging the current social and economic reality as well as sentiments of enlargement fatigue.

To maintain its credibility, the EU should also keep promoting its long-term political and economic commitment to the Eastern Partnership countries, while, as elaborated in our proposals on the war in Ukraine, starting accession talks with Ukraine. In addition, the enlargement process should continue at a pace that is appropriate both for the EU and the candidate countries, respecting strict and fair conditionality and the provisions and values outlined in the Copenhagen Criteria on the one hand, and the need for internal consolidation in the EU on the other hand. In accession negotiations, principles such as democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, inviolability of borders, acceptance of international law, equality rights and protection of minorities should not be compromised.

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