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In this week’s edition: A preview of the Granada summit(s), Borrell’s visit to Ukraine and more.
Rome was not built in one day. But you have to start somewhere.
When EU leaders meet informally next week in Granada, they will try to bring on paper a joint agenda for the next few years on strategic issues for the bloc, including migration, economy and competitiveness, defence and enlargement.
A first strategic plan, if you will, on what could end up being a very different EU one day.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has become a powerful reason to enlarge–and improve–the EU.
The bottom line that has crystallised over the past months is – yes, its a geo-strategic choice for the EU to enlarge, a message the six EU hopefuls in the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia – as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have long been waiting for.
But the question of when the bloc is ready to take in new members can only be answered once Brussels figures out how it will function when it expands from 27 to potentially 30 plus members.
When EU leaders meet in Granada, they are not starting to answer this question from scratch. As with many things, in the EU, there’s a paper (in this case, a number of them) for everything.
Over the past months, there have been several food-for-thought papers produced that could help guide EU leader’s hands.
Spain eagerly put out a modest ‘conversation starter’ of 80 pages on how to make the EU more resilient by 2030.
The most prominent so far has been the Franco-German expert report, backed by the governments of the two largest member states in the bloc.
Paris and Berlin wish to present the reform debate on a wider angle than simply whether the EU treaties should be renegotiated or not and look into alternative options, Euractiv understands.
It puts heavy emphasis on the need to strengthen the rule of law inside the existing bloc first, makes an impassioned case for moving towards qualified majority voting and most controversially, perhaps, proposes the EU could move forward in four circles: “1. The inner circle; 2. The EU itself; 3. Associate members; 4. The European Political Community.”
However, so far such a ‘multi-speed’ Europe approach has been criticised by avid proponents of EU enlargement and future members alike.
Austria, meanwhile, made a renewed push to stress the need to specifically support EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, which have been in the waiting room for years, naming possible policy areas for advancing ‘gradual integration’ with them, according to a non-paper for the Spain summit, seen by Euractiv.
The bottom line for all of them: The EU is not ready yet to welcome new members, neither institutionally nor policy-wise and reforms are needed.
While finding the answers to the ‘how’ to make the bloc ready – as let’s be honest, everything in the EU that has to do with change – is likely to be a draining, technical exercise, EU hopefuls will be watching closely.
When EU leaders meet next week, they are expected to at least put on paper some sort of decision on the way forward before they meet again for the last EU summit of the year in December, where potentially crucial decisions will need to be taken.
But with less than a week to the Spain summit, first drafts of the EU leaders’ declaration remain vague, according to the latest version seen by Euractiv.
On EU enlargement, they are expected to say that it will enhance “European sovereignty and is a geo-strategic investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity on our continent.”
Both the EU and future member countries need to be ready, and should “undertake the necessary internal groundwork” in regard to its priorities, decision-making process and common budget to be ready for future accession rounds.
The vagueness is quite deliberate, many EU diplomats argue.
For regular summits, the drafting is usually done by national ambassadors and working groups.
But occasionally, such symbolic declaration texts are left to EU leaders to hash out to avoid week-long fighting over every word and comma.
EU IN THE WORLD
ODESA VISIT Friday, 20 October 2023