Wednesday

22nd Sep 2021

France, Germany remain cool on EU enlargement

EU foreign ministers meeting on Saturday (28 March) sought to reassure western Balkan countries on their EU future, but the bloc's heavyweights, France and Germany, reaffirmed their reluctance to accept further enlargement so long as the EU's own institutional future is in limbo.

"Clearly there will be no enlargement if there is no Lisbon treaty. Everybody knows it, so why not say it?" French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner was reported as saying by Reuters after the informal foreign ministers meeting in Hluboka Nad Vltavou in the Czech Republic.

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  • The meeting took place in Hluboka Castle, a 13th-century mansion in southern Bohemia which once belonged to Mr Schwarzenberg's family (Photo: Czech EU presidency)

The Lisbon treaty was designed to make the bloc more efficient in the aftermath of the two latest enlargements to 12 new countries, in 2004 and 2007.

It has still to be fully ratified by four EU countries – Ireland, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic – in order to enter into force, following its rejection by Irish voters in June last year.

"We will not be in a position to accept new member states in the EU without the Lisbon treaty," German foreign ministry officials were also quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle on Saturday.

The French and German comments come after Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - Chancellor Merkel's party - earlier this month adopted a platform for the upcoming European elections in June stating that "the consolidation of the identity and institutions of the European Union" must have "precedence over further EU accessions."

"There has been for a long time recognition that the Lisbon treaty is necessary before we have enlargement," Irish Europe minister Dick Roche also said.

EU ‘should learn from its history'

But other traditionally pro-enlargement EU states urged the bloc not to shut the door on the EU hopefuls.

"I think we have got to make the argument that the European Union should learn from its history and its history is that wider makes stronger," said British foreign secretary David Miliband.

Sweden's Carl Bildt expressed a similar opinion.

"If we were to slam the door in their face, not that I say that that will happen, it will have devastating consequences for the region," he warned.

For his part, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country presides over the EU until the end of June, said: "The [western] Balkans are a part of Europe and therefore they have to be a part of the EU too."

EU top diplomat Javier Solana and enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn also backed further enlargement.

Mr Solana warned the bloc against taking "the risk of political protectionism - what we call nationalism," while Mr Rehn stressed that enlargement should not be made "a scapegoat for other ills it is not responsible for."

Balkan warning

Also present at the two-day meeting were EU foreign ministers' counterparts from the western Balkan hopefuls and Turkey.

Serbian foreign ministers Vuk Jeremic said he "very much" hoped the EU would remain open "and that the peoples of the Western Balkans can look forward to their European future."

"Things will [otherwise] become very complicated in the western Balkans," he warned.

Currently, Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia hold the status of official candidates to join the EU, while the remaining western Balkan countries are all potential candidates.

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