Global Europe Brief: What will EU leaders decide on future members?

Your weekly update on the EU from a global perspective.

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In this week’s edition: EU leaders debate candidate status, Western Balkan hopes and India trade talks.


Never before has a European Commission opinion on EU candidacy been given so quickly, which leaves EU leaders roughly a week to study the document before deciding on the matter at their crucial EU summit on 23-24 June.

The opinion serves as a basis for EU leaders’ decision, widely expected to be positive in terms of Ukraine’s (and Moldova’s and maybe Georgia’s) candidate status with strict conditions, opening up an accession path that may take years or even decades.

But the momentum seems to be there, not only after a visit and positive words by leaders of the EU’s three biggest economies to Kyiv raised the expectation EU leaders will ultimately back Ukraine’s bid.

The Netherlands, one of the more hesitant countries, announced it would back Ukraine’s EU candidate status, calling the European Commission’s advice “a smart compromise”. This comes as The Hague has recently voiced support for the next steps for Balkan countries as well.

But launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all member states.

The last EU summit before the summer is set to be centred around relations between the EU27 bloc and its Eastern neighbourhood, on which leaders will hold a “strategic debate”, according to first draft conclusions seen by EURACTIV.

For now, there is a placeholder in the draft communiqué, but especially after the European Commission’s opinion, the question is less about whether it will be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from EU leaders, but rather ‘when’ and with what strings attached.

Relations with the Western Balkans will be on the agenda in the morning when EU leaders meet their six regional counterparts.

Though no declaration or statement is expected, EU leaders later are set to call for a “push forward the progressive integration between the European Union and the region, already during the enlargement process, reversibly and on the basis of merit”.

Merit will be the magic word of the summit.

Expect to see more emphasis on the need for reforms in the region and a slap on the back of the head for Bulgaria and North Macedonia, who seem unlikely to resolve their bilateral dispute any time soon, putting a brake on their accession process.

Moreover, the dark horse of the summit is expected to be the discussion of French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for the creation of a ‘European Political Community,’ which, according to the early draft communiqué, is meant to provide a coordinating political platform for European countries across the continent.”

However, EU leaders are to stress this new type of community “will not replace the existing policies and instruments of the EU, in particular enlargement, but will complement them, and will fully respect the decision-making autonomy of the European Union.

Ukraine (and other aspirants to the bloc) will pay close attention.


UKRAINE LATEST

  • Ukraine, Moldova should get EU candidate status, Georgia might need to wait. The EU should grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, bringing them a step closer to bloc membership. At the same time, Georgia still has some homework to do, the European Commission said on Friday in a highly-anticipated opinion on the bloc’s future enlargement.
  • Germany, France, Italy back EU candidate status for Ukraine. France, Germany, Italy, and Romania are all in favour of Ukraine receiving “immediate” official status as an EU candidate, leaders of the four EU countries said during a visit to the war-torn country struggling to repel a massive invasion launched by Russia.
  • Western Balkan hopefuls hope to ride on Ukraine’s train to membership. Three of the four Western Balkan EU candidates have signed a joint statement with Ukraine in support of its candidacy, signalling that fast-tracking the war-torn eastern country would not mess up their own slow-moving EU integration but should “complement and strengthen each other”.
  • Eurovision 2023 cannot go ahead in Ukraine due to war. The 2023 Eurovision Song Contest cannot be held in Ukraine given the ongoing war in the country, the European Broadcasting Union said, adding it was in talks with the BBC to host it in the United Kingdom.
  • Ukraine invasion pushed global refugees above 100 million, says UN. The war in Ukraine has pushed the number of refugees worldwide to more than 100 million, according to a new report.

EU IN THE WORLD

TRADE TALKS |  The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed on the first change to global trading rules in years as well as a deal to boost the supply of COVID-19 vaccines in a series of pledges that were heavy on compromise.

The Indian government has lambasted a push from the EU and other WTO members to keep global trade on foodstuffs open to cope with the fallout of the Ukraine war, backing countries’ right to stockpile to feed their citizens. And just after, both sides formally relaunched negotiations to forge a free trade agreement, with the aim of completing talks by the end of 2023.

EU SUES UK | The EU opened legal proceedings against the UK in the wake of London’s decision to table a new law that would unilaterally override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

CZECH PRIORITIES | The Czech government presented its priorities for its upcoming EU Presidency this week, foregrounding the issues of Ukraine’s EU candidate status, alongside energy security.


WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 


ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…

  • French parliament election, second round
    | Sunday, 19 June 2022 | Paris, France
  • EU-Egypt Association Council
    | Sunday, 19 June 2022 | Luxembourg
  • EU foreign ministers meet in Ukraine, Horn of Africa and Egypt
    | Monday, 20 June 2022 | Luxembourg
  • EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council
    | Monday, 20 June 2022 | Luxembourg
  • European Commission President Von der Leyen meets NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg
    | Monday, 20 June 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • European affairs ministers meet ahead of EU summit
    | Tuesday, 21 June 2022 | Luxembourg
  • State parties to Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons hold first meeting
    | Tuesday, 21 June 2022 | Vienna, Austria
  • European Development Days
    | Tue-Wed, 21-22 June 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • EU-Western Balkans leaders summit
    | Thursday, 23 June 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • EU summit on Ukraine, enlargement, EU reform
    | Thu-Fri, 23-24 June 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
  • Germany hosts ministerial meeting on international food crisis
    | Friday, 24 June 2022 | Berlin, Germany
  • G7 summit
    | Sunday, 26 June 2022 | Elmau, Germany

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