‘No turning back’: EU scrambles to expand as Europe teeters on the edge of war

In a race against time amid Europe’s volatile geopolitical climate, the European Union is swiftly moving towards expanding its membership, with negotiations set to commence with Ukraine, Moldova, and other potential members.

Sir Michael Leigh, the former EU official responsible for enlargement, sheds light on the urgency and complexities of this endeavour.

“EU membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova are due to start this spring. Bosnia and Herzegovina has edged forward in the queue, and Georgia’s not far behind. There’s talk of Montenegro joining the EU by 2030,” Sir Michael Leigh wrote for Euractiv.

The EU’s accelerated enlargement efforts are a response to the precarious geopolitical situation in Europe, particularly heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The EU has re-launched the enlargement process in record time because of the precarious geopolitical situation in Europe. This is meant primarily to express solidarity with Ukraine after Russia’s invasion and signal to Vladimir Putin that Brussels rejects any notion that Ukraine, its neighbours or the Balkans form part of a Russian sphere of influence,” Leigh stressed.

However, the path to enlargement is riddled with challenges, especially concerning security implications.

Leigh warned: “Security would not be enhanced by admitting a country partly occupied by a hostile foreign power.”

He underscored the need for a comprehensive peace treaty between Ukraine and Russia as a precondition for membership to mitigate security risks.

Moreover, Leigh highlighted governance challenges and the need for internal reforms within candidate countries. He noted the necessity of a thorough impact assessment and urged the EU to update its enlargement methodology to suit the present candidates’ precarious situation.

Despite the uncertainties, the EU remains committed to enlargement, viewing it as vital for European security and stability. Leigh stressed the importance of economic and military assistance to Ukraine, emphasising that there’s “no turning back” on the path to EU membership.

In the face of these challenges, the EU aims to fulfil its aspiration to be an exporter of stability, mitigating instability in the region.

SOURCE

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