Prospects for EU Enlargement after 2019

On the 4th of May in Brussels the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies held a seminar “Prospects for EU Enlargement after 2019”. After seven consecutive enlargements, the EU is considering further expansion towards the Western Balkans and Turkey. In parallel to enlargement, the EU is pondering the next steps for countries of the Eastern Partnership, including Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

The event focused on how the EU should proceed. Should enlargement be stopped due to the EU’s economic, immigration and security crises? Should alternatives be introduced, such as, for example, a membership with a reduced status? Or should enlargement be kept on the long-term agenda, employing a stricter approach towards assessment of the progress made by the candidate countries? The basis for the discussion became the new Martens Centre paper, The Long March Towards the EU: Candidates, Neighbours and the Prospects for Enlargement by Managing Director of Civic Institute in Warsaw Konrad Niklewicz.

In his opening remark, President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Joseph Daul said that even though there would be no enlargement before 2019, there should be perspective and negotiations for the future:

We must offer concrete European prospect to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. And we must offer them the hope that one day they can join our family.

The main findings of Konrad Niklewicz’s research, which vividly addresses Ukraine’s case, showed that in the future the EU would have to, first, focus on an inclusive economic growth instead of elections and human rights issues; second, be more focused on civil society, NGOs and independent media; third, strictly apply conditionality.

IMG_1727MEP of the EPP Group and Vice-Chair of Neighbourhood Policy, Euronest and European Values Sandra Kalniete emphasised the role of conditionality. She shared the position of “friends of enlargement” in the Parliament who agree that if there is further enlargement, it has to be on the basis of strict and fair criteria, applying aggressive conditionality.We must offer concrete European prospect to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. And we must offer them the hope that one day they can join our family, said Joseph Daul.

Member of Cabinet of Commissioner Johannes Hahn for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Noack brought up an interesting point that both the enlargement process and the EU have changed – it became more difficult to join the EU, because of the lessons learned by the EU during the previous enlargement process.

Senior Policy Analyst of the European Policy Centre Corina Stratulat said that toughening conditionality would not be helpful for the further enlargement process. Instead the EU has to focus on sufficient incentives.

Summing up, all speakers agreed on importance to carry on EU’s enlargement policies in the future.