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German Foreign Minister: Europe will become more “vulnerable” if it does not enlarge

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated that the European Union must expand to avoid becoming “vulnerable,” euronews reported.

If these countries [Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkans] can be permanently destabilised by Russia, then that also makes us vulnerable, it makes us all vulnerable. We can no longer afford grey areas in Europe.

Baerbock declared Europe “vulnerable” at a conference in Berlin on EU enlargement attended by 17 EU and candidate countries’ foreign ministers, including Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba. The war in Ukraine has forced the bloc to renew the enlargement debate.

The European Union needs to reconsider its institutional, financial structure and decision-making system to ensure that it remains effective with more members.

European Council President Charles Michel called 2030 the deadline for the EU’s readiness for enlargement, but the European Commission disagreed with his timeline.

Minister Baerbock urged the EU to implement reforms to ensure candidate countries such as Ukraine join the bloc as soon as possible and called enlargement a necessary condition for the EU to maintain its geopolitical influence.

“If we support these countries in the accession process to strengthen their democratic institutions, improve their resilience and offer people economic prospects, then we are not just closing a geopolitical flank but we strengthen our community.”

She stated that Germany was ready to “forego” its commissioner appointed to oversee a key aspect of Union policy for a fixed term, proposing a rotating system of commissioners. The minister suggested an alternative: dividing the Commission’s biggest portfolios, such as economic policy or external action, among a group of Commissioners representing different Member States.

During a debate with his counterparts from Slovenia and North Macedonia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned the EU against using its own reforms to postpone Ukraine’s accession to the EU.

I think the trap we all have to avoid jointly to succeed and to make the EU a stronger player in the world is frustration.

Kuleba added that the EU’s failure to promise membership has caused frustration in Ukraine as well as in the Western Balkans.

“Now we have to build a process of enlargement and reform in a way that there will be no frustration from a protracted reform of the European Union. We have to avoid a situation where the reform of the EU will be used one way or another as an argument to delay enlargement.”

North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani also called for a gradual integration into the bloc to give his population confidence that the EU is taking enlargement seriously.

We have concluded that the sources of the frustration is (are) the focus on the formal membership itself. Therefore, we have promoted this concept of more integration before membership.

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