Monday

12th Apr 2021

EU must 'consolidate' before further enlargement, Merkel says

  • Europe Day celebrations in Kiev, Ukraine (Photo: EUUBC)

The EU needs to "consolidate" before enlarging any further, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in what is the latest blow to countries hoping to join the bloc any time soon.

Commenting on western Balkan countries' fears that their EU ambitions are slowly being pushed far into the future, Ms Merkel said: "We don't want this, but no one is well served in a Europe that can't keep up with integration and takes on too many new members too quickly."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Therefore, we say that we have Croatia and its accession talks in our sights. But we must also first see that, with the Lisbon treaty, we hopefully get a certain consolidation phase in terms of integration," she added in a speech on Europe to members of her conservative Christian Democrat party (CDU) in Berlin, Reuters reports.

Ms Merkel's comments come amid an already gloomy situation for EU aspirants.

Uncertainty over the EU's Lisbon treaty has diminished the willingness to see new countries let in not only in Germany, but also in other member states, notably France.

Additionally, the financial crisis has stolen the attention of leaders from EU enlargement concerns, and the western Balkans' own situation does not make matters easier.

Croatia is expected to end EU membership negotiations by the end of this year - although this timeline has come into question due to a blockage of the talks by Slovenia in a border row between the two neighbours.

Turkey's accession talks have been advancing slowly, while the third EU candidate, Macedonia, has failed to even begin such talks for more than three years because of a Greek veto in a dispute over the former Yugoslav country's name.

Montenegro filed an application to join the bloc last December, but EU member states have been reluctant ever since to take the next step by passing this application for assessment to the European Commission. Any assessment result is unlikely before some time next year.

The other western Balkan countries are even further down the line.

Serbia and Albania are expected to submit their requests to join the EU some time in the next few months, while Bosnia and Herzegovina's internal problems have slowed its reforms and EU integration process. Disagreement among EU members over Kosovo's status makes it unlikely for Pristina to progress much towards the EU in the near future.

UK making the case for enlargement

Some EU countries, however, have warned against the trend of stopping the bloc's expansion, with the UK in particular speaking strongly in favour of keeping momentum going.

"We must re-energise our relations with our neighbours because this [financial] crisis has shown very clearly how exposed we are to problems beyond our borders," British foreigh secretary David Miliband wrote in a comment for Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Monday.

"Whatever the temptations, we cannot afford to turn inwards," he added.

Well beyond the Balkans – where "the offer of EU membership is also critical to overcoming the nationalist politics and ethnic divisions," there are also other neighbours the 27-nation bloc should one day consider for accession.

"Beyond these [Balkan] countries, there are others – Iceland or Ukraine for instance – for which we must keep open the prospects of membership," said Mr Miliband.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal

Spain would be prepared to recognise Kosovo if it clinched a deal with Serbia, Madrid has said, in the first positive signal of its kind since EU-brokered talks resumed.

Kosovo to restart EU/US-led Serbia talks

Restarting talks on Serbia relations will be the new Kosovo prime minister's top priority, he said, but will the EU or the US lead the process?

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us