Enlarging Our Union Means We Must Deepen Integration

On 21 and 22 June 2023, the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be hosting an informal meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC) where enlargement as well as budgetary and institutional issues will be discussed.  

The enlargement process has stalled recently. The Western Balkans have been in the waiting room for over 20 years with very little to show. For instance, Montenegro and Serbia have been negotiating accession for more than 10 years. So far, Croatia has remained the sole example of a successful EU accession from the Western Balkan region. However, the EU and its Member States need to do more to follow up on the promise made to support membership to the Union. Despite the commitments made during the Thessaloniki Summit two decades ago, most of the Western Balkans have yet to become EU Member States, proving the continued need for more effective action to be taken by the EU and its Member States, as well as by the accession countries.  

Nonetheless, enlargement has been successful in uniting and stabilising the EU. The European aspiration of nations across Europe demonstrates the transformative power of EU enlargement. To that end, following the membership applications from Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, the European Council granted candidate status to the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on 23 June 2022, and has recognised a “future perspective” for Georgia.  

However, the process of deepening integration has been without haste by the Council, which is hesitant to discuss amendments to the Treaties to equip the EU with the challenges of an enlarged membership. The ongoing discussion among the institutions as well as the upcoming debate in the General Affairs Council of the EU should push for a constructive, results-oriented debate on treaty change. Treaty reform would ease the process of future EU enlargement. As such, the enlargement process and necessary reforms should go hand in hand. It is imperative that discussions on enlargement feature an honest and ambitious debate about the need to implement the necessary institutional reforms to make our Union stronger and better equipped to make decisions in an efficient and effective manner.  


Key texts 

Council of the EU: Conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process

European Council: Conclusions on the membership applications of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, Western Balkans

European Commission: 2022 Enlargement Package


Upcoming events 

21 June 2023: 20th Anniversary of the 2003 EU-Western Balkans Summit

21-22 June 2023: Informal meeting of the General Affairs Council

29-30 June 2023: European Council


European Movement International Position 

The European Movement International supports the decision to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status and to recognise the future perspective of Georgia. This is a crucial step forward in the context of the new geopolitical landscape and an opportunity to regain the enlargement momentum. In parallel, the EU must urgently move forward the accession process with the Western Balkans. Though the EU can count on NATO to extend security and stability, the lack of any sustained EU membership perspective for the Western Balkans makes the region vulnerable to the likes of Russia, China, Turkey, and the Gulf States. As highlighted in our policy position on the Future of European Security and Defence Cooperation, the EU must promote a credible enlargement perspective to strategically counter destructive external influences in Europe.  

As we advocate in our policy position on Promoting peace, stability and investment in the Western Balkans, it is important to maintain a positive enlargement narrative and a proactive and consistent EU involvement in the region. The EU needs to show citizens and politicians alike that their European trajectory remains on course. With authoritarianism and nationalism impeding democratic development in some countries, the EU should encourage more straightforward and committed reforms to ensure that European values are upheld. To give people in the region a voice in European affairs, civil society exchange and cooperation are vital. More effort should, therefore, be put in facilitating common projects, building networks, and providing capacity-building support and funding. 



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