The suggested ideas for the internal reformation of the EU will require political wisdom to advance it into an organism capable of facing the challenges of the XNUMXst century. This will require political leaders to understand the importance of national compromises that must be made for the advancement of the EU as a whole. In this sense, ironically, the EU member states find themselves today before the same test as the countries of the Western Balkans
For a long time, the EU enlargement process has been in free fall. The major enlargement of 2004 has been blamed (unfairly) by many member states as the source of the EU's internal problems. Likewise, a number of consecutive crises such as financial, migration, BREXIT and the growth of European populist parties have forced the EU to turn back on itself. As a result, the enlargement process has been put into moratorium. Often the EU's main decision-making body, the EU Council, has found itself in political deadlock due to the EU's lack of political will to advance the enlargement process. Over time, even the position of Commissioner for Enlargement began to lose its political weight. Being appointed Commissioner for Expansion was an indication that your career is going in the wrong direction. All this lack of internal EU political interest in enlargement produced consequences for the countries of the Western Balkans. Albania and North Macedonia failed to open membership negotiations despite meeting all established criteria. Likewise, Kosovo was unable to obtain visa liberalization despite fulfilling all the respective criteria. Bosnia shared the same fate by not receiving the status of a candidate country.
Only after the Russian invasion of Ukraine did the EU wake up from its two-decade slumber and recognize again the importance of the enlargement process for the security and stability of the entire European continent. From Chancellor Scholz and President Macron, to the President of the EU Council, Mr. Michel, and the president of the European Commission, Mrs. Von der Leyen, everyone today speaks in sync about the importance and urgency of enlargement.
But beautiful speeches alone will not be enough. What will be expected from the EU in the coming days are (1) important political decisions to advance the integration path of the countries of the Western Balkans; and (2) decisively begin internal reform of the EU itself in order to prepare for new EU members from 2030.
The EU's bold decisions last year are reason for optimism. Within a few weeks, the EU took the decisions it had been unable to take for years. Along with Ukraine and Moldova, Bosnia gained candidate country status, Kosovo gained visa liberalization, while Albania and North Macedonia opened membership negotiations. It will now be important for the EU to prove that these decisions were not just momentary political blips, but evidence of a tectonic shift in the EU's approach to enlargement. This would mean the decision to open negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova by the end of this year. Next year is an election year within the EU, so nothing should be expected in the first part of the year. In the second part of the year, the EU would have to make a decision to start Kosovo's journey to obtain the status of a candidate country. This would pave the way for Kosovo and Bosnia to join all other countries as countries in the negotiation process for EU membership in 2025.
And in parallel with this, the EU must start internal preparations to be ready to accept new members from 2030. In this regard, at the beginning of this year, France and Germany have initiated a working group of experts to formulate technical recommendations for reforming the EU. This week, this working group has finalized its work. A detailed discussion of the report's recommendations is the subject of a separate post, but it is worth sketching the main ideas of the report here. The first recommendation of the report places the rule of law at the epicenter of the entire EU reform process. The rule of law is the sine qua non of the EU's very existence. In the words of the authors of the report, "The rule of law is not only one of the values on which the EU was founded. It is a non-negotiable constitutional principle for the proper functioning of the EU, as defined by Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union". In this regard, the report offers some ideas on how to advance the rule of law within the EU. Second, the report recommends differentiated integration of EU member states. This means that integration within the EU will be scaled within four possible degrees of integration. The most basic level of integration will be that of the European Political Community. The second level of integration will be a club of countries associated with the EU. The third level will be the EU members themselves. While the highest degree of integration will be a group of EU member states that decide to deepen their integration, unimpeded by other EU countries. Thirdly, the report recommends some fundamental changes for the composition and functioning of European institutions. As for the European Parliament, this means setting the limit of MEPs at the current number of 751 MEPs. As for the Council, the report recommends the substantial expansion of qualified majority voting and the removal of the veto. As for the European Commission, it is recommended either to reduce the number of commissioners or to divide commissioners into two categories: voting and non-voting.
Now that the experts have had their say, it's time for the politicians to speak. The suggested ideas for internal reform of the EU will require political wisdom to advance the EU into an organism capable of facing the challenges of the XNUMXst century. This will require political leaders to understand the importance of national compromises that must be made for the advancement of the EU as a whole. In this sense, ironically, the EU member states find themselves today before the same test as the countries of the Western Balkans.
© KOHA. All rights are reserved.