On 8 November 2023, the European Commission will unveil the 2023 Enlargement Package assessing reform progress in the seven Western Balkan states along with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Türkiye. Country-specific reports covering the key areas of the rule of law, fundamental rights, economic development, competitiveness, strengthening of democratic institutions and public administration will also lay down the legislative priorities and benchmarks for the aspiring members to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria imperative to the accession. Finally, the Commission is expected to deliver a long-awaited answer on the recommendation to open accession negotiations with Ukraine.
The new geopolitical reality post-Russia’s full-scale invasion created an unprecedented momentum for enlargement and brought the topic to the top of the European agenda as the most effective tool to secure geopolitical stability in the European continent. The European Parliament draft report “On deepening EU integration in view of future enlargement” reflects the revived interest in concrete actions.
The publication of the package follows Commission President von der Leyen’s recent visit to Ukraine, during which she commended the country’s reform process and reaffirmed the EU’s support encompassed in the new €50-billion Ukraine Facility instrument. A week prior, she visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia on a tour to promote the Economic and Investment Plan for Western Balkans and prompt the completion of the Common Regional Market to increase the economic convergence of the region ahead of enlargement. Additionally, in June 2023, the EU committed to providing Moldova with €72.5 million in financial support to be paid by the end of October as part of the ongoing Macro-Financial Assistance operation to the country.
In addition to the remaining economic and rule of law challenges in the aspiring candidate states, a successful enlargement policy also hinges upon the efficiency of EU decision-making. The present unanimity requirement in the area of enlargement policy allows one Member State to paralyse the process and hinders the overhaul of the institutional and policy set-up necessary ahead of the accession of the new members.
- European Council: Address of President Charles Michel at the Berlin Process summit in Tirana
- European Commission: Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans
- European Parliament: Draft report on deepening EU integration in view of future enlargement
- 8 November 2023: Presentation of the 2023 Enlargement Package and the new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans by Olivér Varhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement European Council
- 14-15 December 2023: European Council
European Movement International’s Position
The European Movement International’s (EMI’s) policy positions on the outcomes of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) and on the future of European security and defence cooperation highlight the strategic geopolitical importance of a credible enlargement perspective for all candidate countries. We believe that a successful enlargement policy represents an instrument that can help the EU to counter destructive external influences in Europe and enhance the democratic functioning of the EU.
Firstly, we welcome the decision to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status and underline the need for the EU to urgently move forward the accession process with the Western Balkans in full respect of the Copenhagen criteria and adherence to fundamental EU values. Enhanced cooperation with the prospective members in the reform and acquis adoption process should be concurrent with the provision of consistent technical and financial support.
Secondly, enlargement policy should go hand in hand with Treaty reform. Overcoming unanimity and consequent vetoes is crucial to enabling the pre-enlargement changes to the key policy areas and institutional composition of the EU necessary to ensure the efficient and truly democratic functioning of the enlarged Union. Moreover, Treaty reform needs to be paired with strengthening citizen participation and deliberative democracy, including the enhanced role of the European Parliament and organised civil society in the EU and in potential Member States in the negotiation and accession process.