Germany supports gradual integration of new members into the EU | International
The formula that future EU member states gradually integrate into the community club is gaining traction. Germany has supported this Thursday that in the next major enlargement of the Union, the entry of new partners will be gradual. “We must abandon the all or nothing process,” launched the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, at a conference on the future of the EU in Berlin. This integration by chapters that the European Commission is already exploring, as EL PAÍS reported, and which has the support of France, should allow the candidates to benefit along the way from some elements of the EU, such as access to funds and some programs, Baerbock has defended. Meanwhile, future partners could send “observers” to the institutions to start filming, the German politician has said.
On the eve of the European Commission publishing the report on the progress of the candidate countries in the reforms they need to complete before entering the EU, Baerbock has expressed confidence that the Twenty-seven will decide in December to open accession negotiations with Ukraine. And although after that step the actual entry may take many years, when the large-scale war launched by Russia has already exceeded 600 days and is losing focus in the face of the crisis in the Middle East, that decision would be an important geopolitical endorsement. “The heart of Europe beats in kyiv,” she said at the meeting, in which a dozen foreign ministers from the EU and candidate countries participated. “We want to see Ukraine as a member of our European Union,” Baerbock insisted.
For Germany, as for other Member States and institutions, enlargement is a geostrategic necessity to end the gray areas that Russia could try to place under its umbrella of influence or even attack. Hence, the large-scale invasion of Ukraine launched by Vladimir Putin has been the trigger that has reactivated the enlargement process, which had been at a standstill for years with the Balkans.
Ukraine applied for fast-track membership a couple of months after the Kremlin started the war and managed to get the EU to designate it as a candidate country in record time, in June 2022. After that, Kiev has worked to meet a series of major reforms (divided into seven points) that would allow him to start integration talks. Several community sources indicate that the European Commission will outline, in its progress report next Wednesday, the path to opening negotiations. But it also highlights important technical issues that kyiv may take years to meet for integration to be real.
The Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmitro Kuleba, was “optimistic” this Thursday that the Twenty-Seven would give the green light to these talks before the end of the year. “We made many reforms and approved the necessary legislation to comply with and implement the recommendations,” he said at the conference in Berlin. “Ukraine will become an added value, not a burden for the EU,” he insisted.
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With the data in hand, the eastern country would become the fifth most populous Member State in the Union. He would also be the poorest. Its accession and that of the Balkans and Moldova (or Georgia, which is still on the path to becoming a candidate) will transform the EU and the majority of countries that are now beneficiaries will become net contributors to help its development. With that element on the horizon, but also with the vision that a Union as it is now with 35 members would hardly work, the Twenty-Seven have assumed that they will have to make bold and structural reforms. Now it's a matter of deciding which ones and when.
There are many voices that point to a reform of the majorities in the decision-making processes to make the veto policy more difficult and unusual, since it will be necessary to change the mechanism of the institutions and the ways of distributing the budget; and also initiate a system in which democratic standards of the rule of law are met more automatically when distributing funds.
And there is more. Baerbock defended this Thursday that in an EU with thirty members the current composition of the community institutions should be changed, rethink the distribution of seats in the European Parliament and also that of the portfolios of the European Commission: now they are one commissioner per Member State, but with enlargement that would be equivalent to having up to 35 commissioners. “We need to make brave decisions. In a country like Germany, for example, we are willing to do without our own commissioner for a limited period of time,” Baerbock launched. Like several reports and analyzes by experts - among them, a widely circulated report commissioned by Berlin and Paris and which is now the leading book on the enlargement of a good number of partners - the German minister has suggested that it may not be necessary for each Member State appoints a commissioner and that portfolios could even be shared.
This whole path towards reforms marks what the EU will be like in the future. And it's also a very divisive issue. After a period of stepping on the accelerator and waving the need to launch the second major enlargement (after 2004, where a dozen countries joined) and do it soon, the Twenty-seven are now stepping on the brakes a bit. Not all partners agree with the plans of Germany and France in the area of reforms, much less in terms of haste.
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