EU enlargement by 2030?
EU Council President Charles Michel has caused a stir at a conference in Slovenia by saying that the EU must set itself the goal of taking in new members by 2030. This would require rapid reforms in the candidate countries, but also in the EU and its decision-making processes, he stressed. Commentators are at odds about how realistic — or desirable — this goal is.
The light is shining again
The times of EU enlargement fatigue described by authors Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes in their book The Light that Failed are over, writes El País:
“The key realisation of the last 18 months is that the vetoes have been overcome — and that no one can call themselves pro-European but at the same time reject enlargement. ... It is entirely possible that at the summit in Granada [in October] it will be officially announced that the failing light is now shining once more. The East wants to imitate again, and the West must be up to the challenge.”
Just empty talk
Charles Michel is mainly concerned with his own reputation here, Jutarnji list suspects:
“Perhaps Michel, knowing that his mandate ends in a year, wanted to prove that he has pushed for concrete progress on enlargement. ... Former Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker did something similar. During his first four years in office he repeated that there would be no enlargement, which further slowed down the already slow process — but towards the end of his mandate he made ambitious proposals for 2019 as the year in which the countries of the Western Balkans would resolve their problems among themselves so that some of these states could be admitted as early as 2025. But these proposals never secured the support of the member states, just as Charles Michel’s proposals won’t either.”
Enlargement policy no longer a success story
Delo sees no basis for a rapid expansion:
“The experiences of the last few decades have shown that the enlargement policy conceals the EU’s power to transform the candidates. During the accession process they worked to meet all the conditions, carried out domestic reforms and moved closer to the EU. Yet 20 years after the Thessaloniki agenda [when Northern Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina were promised the chance of accession] the Western Balkans remain an empty space. If the candidates themselves can’t break their own deadlock, there will be no accession progress. The EU’s enlargement policy has been considered a great success throughout its history. But it is by no means certain that this will continue.”
Fuzzier and fuzzier
This enlargement would change the EU decisively, warns De Standaard:
“The main hurdle becomes a democratic one. If the EU becomes so large and so disparate, can it continue to develop as a single democratic space? Then the question of identity becomes inevitable. What do we have in common with Moldova or Albania that we allow their EU representatives to make decisions that affect us? Or must the EU become a confederation of states, the pipe dream of the far right? ‘We need boldness’, Macron said yesterday. Yes, we do, plus the feeling that the whole thing is a gain, and for enough Europeans.”