Charles Michel: EU must be ready for new members by 2030
The EU must be ready to integrate new member states by 2030, European Council president Charles Michel said on Monday at a conference in Bled, Slovenia. "As we prepare the next EU strategic agenda, we need to set a clear target. I think we should be ready - on both sides - for enlargement by 2030."
The EU has not taken in any new countries since Croatia's accession in 2013, due to enlargement fatigue in some member states and slow progress in some Balkan countries that have been seen as potential new members for two decades.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine gave new life to the idea of a larger EU. Ukraine and Moldova were suddenly granted candidate status in the summer of 2022, which also gave renewed attention to candidate members in the Western Balkans like Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Michel acknowledged that "the slow pace" of the EU "has disappointed many". However, he stressed that accession was based on merit, requiring candidates not only to respect the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law but also to adopt all European legislation and be able to survive economically in the single market.
He added that the EU wanted to strengthen its support in the accession process. This could include an approach of "progressive integration", whereby candidate countries could already enjoy some of the benefits of membership before accession.
"Integrating new members into our union will not be easy. It (...) will require political reforms and political courage"
At the same time, Michel acknowledged that the EU would also have to do its homework internally and reform itself to welcome new members. "Integrating new members into our union will not be easy. It will affect our policies, our programmes and our budgets, and it will require political reforms and political courage."
© PHOTO HANS LUCAS VIA AFP