The EU’s enlargement process needs to stop

As the European Union’s integration policies come increasingly under fire, and the union does not agree between itself where it wants to head, it is unwise for Brussels to flirt with the accession of countries such as Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Albania. In fact, the EU needs a halt to all accessions for a longer period of time.

Current EU summits, which are so largely dominated by the issue of migration that they overshadow the CAP reform, the EU budget 2021-2027, as well as the Brexit negotiation, which are moved down in the schedule, shine light on massive divisions. This is due to considerable differences between Western and Central- and Eastern European nations, which do not agree on migration policy. And yet, Brussels does not seem all to worried to increase this divide by allowing more members to join the joyless party.

As of now, seven countries are in the accession process of the European Union, with varying degrees of plausible success: Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia&Herzegovina, and Kosovo. The last two are only considered as “potential candidates”. It should be noted however, that the accession of Turkey, which is being negotiated since 1987, as well as the one of Serbia, which doesn’t even recognise the existence of potential EU accession candidate Kosovo, are aren more unlikely than the accession of a country such as Bosnia. One thing seems to be certain in recent weeks: Albania and and Macedonia remain to be the current favourites to become the newest members.

Talks about the accession both of those countries becoming members are, however, purely political, and not based on the objective standards on the EU’s own demands. All it takes to see that, is to read the 2018 EU Enlargement Policy Report by the European Commission. In the 2018 Albania report, the Commission calls the country moderately prepared on: the fight against corruption, developing a functioning market economy, entreprise and industrial policy, free movement of capital, regional policy, or financial control. It also says, for instance, that more efforts are needed to tackle money laundering, criminal assets and unjustified wealth.

The wording of the 2018 Macedonia report isn’t any different. Key features of state policy are neglected by the Commissions’s own criteria, and in its own words:

“As regards its ability to assume the obligations of membership, the country is moderately prepared in most areas, including in the areas of competition, transport and energy. The country shows a good level of preparation in areas such as company law, customs union, trans-European networks and science and research. Further efforts are needed across the board, in particular in those few areas where the country is at an early stage of preparation, such as freedom of movement of workers. More focus is also needed on administrative capacity and effective implementation.”

These are not prepared to join the European Union, so why are EU leaders hyping the potential accessions so much? The reason for this is purely strategic. In the light of Russian election intervention and the continuous belief that China and the United States could become credible threats to Europe, the European Union wants to expand geographically in order to show strength internationally. The fact that these countries are not at all on the level required by current standards seems irrelevant to the political personnel in Brussels. The end seems to justify the means.

However, opposition is rising within current members states, and not coming from Central and Eastern European nations. France, Denmark and the Netherlands forced postponing any decisions on possible accession to June 2019. The language of the most recent declaration allows the pro-EU governments of Macedonia and Albania to tell their citizens that the door to eventual EU membership is open, and promotes considerable progress within the next year. However, it is also very likely that Western European nations could oppose expansion on principle, because they believe that it could fuel further euroscepticism. According to the treaties, any member state can veto the accession of a new member. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte made it clear in his speech on the future of Europe, that he believes the union should do less, yet more efficiently. The Danish government also seems to be on bord with this message.

That should ultimately be the new mantra of the European Union. Brussels should completely freeze the accession procedure and first set out the actual priorities of this political union. Otherwise, it will be lost in the tumultuous discussions between those who believe it should do everything and those who believe it shouldn’t exist at all. And while those discussions are interesting in themselves, they do tend to cost the taxpayer a lot of money.

This article was first published by Values4Europe.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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