Diplomats and officials have been debating for months in Brussels the need and suitability of a future enlargement of the European Union. What they do not debate is that, if carried out, the way the bloc operates must first be reformed because otherwise it would be impossible to manage.
Successive enlargements have led the European Union from six founding partners to today be a bloc of 27 countries (there were 28 until Brexit) that at the beginning of the next decade could reach 35. Beyond the number, expanding the European Union towards Balkans and integrating Ukraine would profoundly change the economic, social and political aspect of the continent.
Two issues are of main concern.
The current operation is already complicated enough to add up to eight more countries, all with veto power, all with a member in the European Commission (a kind of executive power that would go to 35 commissioners) and more than 800 MEPs.
At the next European summit in December, the 27 will have to decide whether to start negotiating with Ukraine and Moldova. The opening of negotiations does not prejudge the result because it is always remembered that Montenegro has been negotiating for 14 years, that it does not show major obstacles but that the negotiation is not progressing due to lack of European political will.
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, demands entry into the EU. Photo: BLOOMBERG
Furthermore, the rules by which the funds are currently distributed would mean that Ukraine, if it joined, would take 100% of the aid to agriculture and almost 90% of the cohesion or structural funds, which help the development of the poorest regions of the continent.
Added to this is that its entry, that of Moldova and that of the Balkans Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and even Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, would make many countries that today are net recipients net contributors to European funds.
How to fix it? A group of experts appointed by the governments of Germany and France have just written a report that proposes institutional reforms that would revolutionize the functioning of the bloc.
They ask for institutional measures, such as reducing the number of MEPs and European Commissioners (there would no longer be one per country), in addition to ending the rule of unanimity in decision-making, which would be accompanied by toughening the requirements to achieve blocking minorities. . Something that the older ones will not like but that makes it easier for the little ones to accept it because their voice will be worth more.
They also propose reforms, for example, to toughen the delivery of European funds, linking them more to respect for the rules of the rule of law to avoid authoritarian drifts such as those currently in Hungary and Poland, which have had these two countries clashing with Brussels in the European courts since years ago.
But the great reform goes further. The report calls for the creation of four concentric groups, a euphemism for saying that there would be full members and others with fewer rights.
Thus, there would be a first circle that would concentrate the “core” of the European Union, the countries that share the euro, which today number 20. The second circle would be that of the current European Union, which would include the member states that do not they had the euro.
In the third circle would remain the “Associated States”, a bag in which countries could fall that wanted to enter the European Union and that were not accepted or were not accepted temporarily but whose economies would be accepted in the European common market, where they govern. the freedom of movement of people, capital and goods. And in the fourth circle, called ‘European Political Community’ (and already existing, but without further structure or content) there could even be countries like the United Kingdom or Turkey.
Some countries fear that the arrival of new member states will be conditional on these reforms. It would be a way to block their entry if the reforms drag on. In a report written by Baltic, Polish, Scandinavian and Croatian political scientists (their countries are in favor of enlargement as soon as possible) they ask for this non-conditionality. They fear that the Franco-German report and its reforms will be an excuse to stop enlargement.