Saturday

3rd Dec 2022

Blow to Kiev as Brussels closes door to further enlargement

  • Commissioner Rehn -"The EU's absorption capacity is stretched to its limits" (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission has in a new strategy paper responded to wary public opinion about enlargement by stating the EU should be "cautious" about further expansion - with serious possible consequences for states like Ukraine.

Enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn on Wednesday (9 November) said while presenting Brussels' 2005 enlargement strategy paper: "We need to consolidate our enlargement agenda but be cautious with new commitments."

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

The report defines the current agenda as "the Balkans and Turkey", clearly leaving out other countries knocking on the EU door like Ukraine.

A high-ranked commission official said he "did not object" to the analysis that the commission strategy paper represents bad news for Kiev's EU aspirations.

The blow to the Ukrainians comes after commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said last month after a meeting with Kiev's new prime minister Yuri Yekhanurov: "Our door remains open. The future of Ukraine is in Europe".

But commissioner Rehn said today that the EU should "avoid overstretch," adding that the current enlargement agenda is already very heavy.

Brussels recently got a clear signal of concern over further enlargement prospects from general public scepticism on expansion, with the unnamed EU official saying "We have to listen to citizens' concerns."

Absorption capacity and public opinion

Mr Rehn highlighted that the term "absorption capacity" now figures more than ever in reports on the various candidate states and EU hopefuls.

"Absorption capacity" relates to the EU's own capacity to welcome new member states and is defined in commission documents in terms of, for example, EU financial costs and institutional reforms.

But recently, following public scepticism with enlargement expressed in states like France and Austria, the term has also been used by politicians in connection with public opinion.

Although officials deny a connection between absorption capacity and public opinion, a statement by commissioner Rehn on Wednesday was less clear:

"All European citizens benefit from having neighbours that are stable democracies and prosperous market economies. The EU cannot abandon its responsibilities. But the pace of enlargement also has to take into consideration the EU’s absorption capacity."

"The EU's absorption capacity is stretched to its limits," he added.

Austria, which faces some of the most sceptical public feelings on enlargement, claimed victory on 3 October after it introduced a strengthened "absorption capacity" clause in the EU negotiating framework with Turkey.

Nice treaty

Commissioner Rehn today urged member states to use their "reflection period" following the French and Dutch no votes to the EU constitution to tackle one specific problem that stands in the way of enlargement after the planned accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.

The proposed EU constitution, voted down by the French and Dutch, had provided for institutional arrangements for integrating Turkey and Balkan states.

But the Nice treaty currently in force only covers 27 member states - the 25 plus Romania and Bulgaria.

"I hope member states can soon agree on what the accession of a 28th member state would mean in terms of the composition of the commission and voting rights in the council," Mr Rehn urged.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels. The hire comes as the EU Commission threatens a lawsuit against France over fishing.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us