Enlargement is a geopolitical necessity, agree MEPs and foreign ministers
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Enlargement is a geopolitical necessity, agree MEPs and foreign ministers

On Tuesday, MEPs on the Committee on Foreign Affairs discussed the future of EU enlargement with ministers, vice-ministers and secretaries of state of EU member states.

The EU should begin the accession negotiation process with Ukraine and Moldova in June at the latest, stated several representatives of the member states at the meeting with the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. It is imperative that the EU sets a date to begin negotiations at the European Council this week, stressed Foreign Affairs Minister for Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has given EU enlargement new momentum, and the EU should not miss this historic opportunity to incorporate Ukraine and Moldova, as well as Georgia, which became a candidate country in December 2023.

The representatives of the member states commended Bosnia and Herzegovina for its good work in the last twelve months in adopting European reforms . Austrian minister Karoline Edtstadler called on the EU to deliver on its promises from last December (to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina) and to support Bosnia and Herzegovina in maintaining its commitment to the accession process. This should also be an example for all other countries in the Western Balkans, she added.

MEPs welcomed that representatives of the member states broadly agree on the future of enlargement, supporting ministers in their opinion that the enlargement process must take place in parallel with internal EU reforms to prepare the EU for further enlargement.

The meeting took place ahead of the European Council on 21-22 March, during which EU leaders will debate the future of EU enlargement. The foreign ministers of Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and the deputy ministers or secretaries of state of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece and Hungary were present.

Background

In the 2023 annual report on Common Foreign and Security Policy, MEPs warn that the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has significantly destabilised countries in the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership. According to the report, this jeopardises EU security. To address this, the report recommends that the EU reform its neighbourhood policy and accelerate the enlargement process.

In 2024, Parliament adopted a report calling for institutional and financial reforms to ensure the EU’s capacity to absorb new members. It approved the Ukraine Facility, long-term funding for Ukraine to aid its recovery and to modernise efforts to facilitate EU membership. MEPs also supported the Reform and Growth Facility for the Western Balkans to bolster EU partners in the region by facilitating extensive socio-economic reforms. These include strengthening the rule of law and fundamental rights. The facility should also help these partners to swiftly align themselves economically with EU standards.