The European Union faces a challenging test with another Easter expansion.
The President of the European Commission recently heard the „call of history“ during her State of the Union address to the European Parliament and announced it to the world. However, the President does not let herself be called by history, but rather stranded in the present. Specifically, on the island of Lampedusa, where EU migration policy lies in ruins after all the deals with Turkey, Libya, and Tunisia. Von der Leyen could take action instead of just talking. However, she chooses not to and presents a Ten-Point Plan that acknowledges powerlessness. It includes what has been valid for years and essentially boils down to sealed EU external borders through FRONTEX, which is neither humane nor effective. A enforceable agreement for the internal distribution of asylum seekers within the EU continues to be elusive.
How do these deficits align with von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech? In it, on September 13th, she declared the EU as a geopolitical actor that stands up to Russia and, quite surprisingly, announced an expansion from the current 27 members to „at least 30 members“. Who should these three out of the current nine applicants be? Ukraine, Moldova, and Serbia? Georgia, Kosovo, and North Macedonia, which have been in the waiting loop for over a decade? If von der Leyen wants to globally orient the European Union, it can only be all or none! Whoever remains among the aspirants in the Western Balkans will become an uncertain cantonist with latent affinity towards Russia.
Polen würde mächtiger werden
Serbien, Bosnien, Kosovo, Montenegro, Nordmazedonien, Albanien, die Ukraine, Georgien und Moldau hereinholen zu müssen, kann allerdings nur heißen, auf die üblichen Beitrittskriterien zu verzichten. Die Prüfsteine Demokratie, Rechtsstaatlichkeit, Menschenrechte, Marktwirtschaft, Minderheitenschutz und so weiter hätten sich erledigt. In der Folge wäre eine EU der 35 eine vollkommen andere als die der derzeit 27. Weshalb die Kommissionspräsidentin eine solche Aufstockung als „Katalysator für den Fortschritt“ labelt, bleibt rätselhaft. Die „Union plus“ würde östlicher, um 55 Millionen orthodoxe Christen größer und mit Polen einen Staat haben, der dank des Zuwachses aus Ost- wie Südosteuropa regionalmächtig würde.
For fun, let’s raise the question of what this would mean at the moment. It would mean: no clear separation of powers between the executive and judiciary, veto against EU quotas for migrants, no free trade but a halt to grain imports from Ukraine, more sovereignty for their own state instead of subsidiarity within the EU. They would be expected to adhere to standards that would violate the famous Acquis communautaire.
Can I rephrase this text?
Unless one remembers the idea considered in the 1990s of striving for a union of different speeds and now establishes different memberships. The principle: those who lack sufficient rule of law have fewer rights as members. If Ukraine, as an agricultural country, threatens to disrupt the EU agricultural market, it is only allowed to sell there in highly limited quantities.
The aspiration of geopolitical actors would become a chimera. The EU would become internally unstable to be externally agile. If von der Leyen overlooks this, one must recognize a preference for alternative realities that feel more familiar in her speeches than actual realities, and can only hope that her last State of the Union address on September 13, 2023.