The Brief – Reinventing EU enlargement – EURACTIV.com
The war in Ukraine is forcing us to rethink many EU policies. One of them is EU enlargement.
Ukraine, a European nation heroically defending itself against the Russian aggressor and also defending European values, has applied for accelerated EU membership.
Brussels broke the taboo by accepting his membership application and launching in record time the “notice” procedure, writing an opinion on the suitability of Ukraine.
It’s a giant step. Let us not forget that the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan were integrated into the Eastern Partnership, which provided for association for those who wanted it but not the membership.
(Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova accepted the “association” offer, but demanded more. In Western Europe, few people realized what a powerful symbol the EU flag was deployed during the Maidan revolution in Ukraine in February 2014.)
Many in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe are now asking: accelerating heroic Ukraine is fine, but what are we doing with the Western Balkan countries, which have been waiting for two decades?
It’s a legitimate question. Let’s take an example from recent history.
Bulgaria and Romania were promised EU membership largely because of another war.
In 1999, the two countries ceded their airspace for the NATO war against Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević, also known as the Kosovo War. Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sofia and Bucharest would receive their reward in the form of EU membership under his leadership.
(Blair also had a hidden agenda; he wanted to dilute the EU into a loose union of heterogeneous members. Nevertheless, opening it up was a big move.)
Were Bulgaria and Romania ready for EU membership when they joined in 2007?
No they weren’t. As proof, 15 years later, neither Sofia nor Bucharest have managed to get rid of EU control over their judicial system, called the “Cooperation and Verification Mechanism”.
But can the acceleration of Bulgaria and Romania be considered a mistake?
Of course not. If that hadn’t happened, Bulgaria would have been Vladimir Putin’s Transdanubian province. For him, the Black Sea is too important; he would probably even set foot there before hitting Ukraine.
EU enlargement is above all a geopolitical process.
But why has the EU turned enlargement into a bureaucratic process, fulfilling conditions and preconditions for decades, when the candidate countries and their people have had enough?
The answer seems clearer now as Putin expands his empire in a desperate attempt to rebuild the Soviet Union by sending tanks to reclaim lost territory. Assuming the EU is also an empire, why does it refuse to expand, even though the countries on its periphery are still eager to join?
Is the EU doing Putin a favor by dragging its feet on enlargement? Isn’t this bad policy, a by-product of Angela Merkel’s dominant presence in European affairs, that should be abandoned?
And what happens between the two? For Putin’s Russia, no event that can be considered decisive is the last episode. For Putin’s Russia, the admission of a country that had been part of the Soviet empire into the EU or NATO is never the end of the story. He is still planning a rematch.
I will give an example related to the country that I know best.
What happened in Bulgaria during Boyko Borissov’s 12-year reign? Today we can safely say that Borissov was simply maintaining a very comfortable status quo for Putin. No reforms were made, and the army was totally incapable of fighting.
Borissov even “improved” the status quo by giving Putin a gas pipeline that significantly increased Russia’s influence in the Western Balkans, especially in Serbia (the so-called Balkan Stream, a continuation of TurkStream).
Borissov claimed to be pro-Western, but today he is seen by many as the godfather of a mafia model that has turned Bulgaria into rotten fruit, which comes in very handy for Putin’s Russia.
In Serbia, the situation is much more worrying because the autocrat there, Aleksandar Vučić, who also passes himself off as a fixture in the West, pursues an openly pro-Russian policy, and the Serbian media he controls are anti-Russian. Europeans.
Serbia’s influence in the Western Balkans remains significant, especially in North Macedonia, where the anti-Bulgarian policies of Tito’s Yugoslavia era were the work of Serbian intelligence.
Vučić builds geopolitical projects such as the Open Balkan. And what is Bulgaria doing? Apart from the fact that he remains entangled in attempts to resolve his difficult relations with Skopje, nothing.
The other geopolitical actors are not sleeping either. Like Turkey, which also suffers from imperial, Ottoman nostalgia and tries to set foot wherever possible, especially in the most fragile country in the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is on the verge of collapse .
Speaking at a EURACTIV Bulgaria conference in Sofia on Monday, Radan Kanev (EPP) MEP called on Bulgaria and Greece to start playing the geopolitical role expected of them and to complete the membership of the Western Balkans to the EU.
EU enlargement should make our Union stronger. To succeed, candidate countries may be weak as economies (they will catch up), but they would have to get rid of Putin’s fifth column. Putin’s local stooges feed on corruption, and corruption in the Balkans is killing the prospect of the EU.
They should also get rid of past antagonisms that only play into the Kremlin’s game. They should get rid of their local autocrats. Support for EU enlargement should be completely redesigned to favor civil society.
We should be able to answer the call of history in a very short time. And thank Ukraine for opening our eyes.
** The Brief will be taking a short break and will be back with you on Tuesday, April 19.
After the return of three key members of the Bundestag from their visit to Ukraine, the question of whether Germany should deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine has become a hot and contested topic within the ruling coalition of “fireworks”. signage”.
Ahead of the second round on April 24, French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to attract voters who backed far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Green Yannick Jadot in the first round, but his approach sometimes borders on greenwashing.
Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has softened her stance on France’s possible exit from the EU, but her program for the country, if elected, suggests otherwise.
The French group EDF has launched a hydrogen plan to develop three gigawatts of electrolytic hydrogen worldwide in order to further diversify its activities, the group announced on Wednesday April 13.
The world’s leading international financial and food organizations have joined forces to call for urgent and coordinated action on food security in light of the war in Ukraine, warning that soaring food prices could fuel social tensions and plunging millions of people into poverty.
Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) have called for concrete actions to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancers and heart and lung disease, calling their prevalence a ” pandemic “.
A broad international platform of activists, unions and experts has urged India and South Africa to reject the disclosed compromise on intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines, which the European Commission considers as the “most promising way” to solve the problem.
After facing discrimination and being denied humanitarian aid in Hungary, many Roma refugees fleeing Ukraine are returning to their war-torn country to reunite with their families, despite the risks, activists say.
The UK unveiled a deal with Rwanda on Thursday (April 14) that will see them send thousands of asylum seekers to the East African country to have their claims processed, but the controversial deal is likely to raise legal challenges.
The European Commission decided to restrict the use of the pesticide “sulfoxaflor” indoors only after concerns about its impact on bees, but the decision was not welcomed by the United States.
As fossil fuels continue to be burned to produce heat, air quality in Europe suffers. With many of these fossil fuels coming from Russia, EU policymakers see an opportunity to accelerate their phase-out.
Be careful with…
- Publication of the European Central Bank’s survey of professional forecasters.
The views are those of the author.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]