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Berthold Busch / Samina Sultan IW-Analyse No. 152 12. January 2023 EU Enlargement? Alternative concepts to full membership

Debate on whether the European Union (EU) should accept new members has recently gained momentum. In June 2022, just months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Council granted both the latter nation and the Republic of Moldova the status of candidate country, and Georgia the status of potential candidate.

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EU Enlargement? Alternative concepts to full membership
Berthold Busch / Samina Sultan IW-Analyse No. 152 12. January 2023

EU Enlargement? Alternative concepts to full membership

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German Economic Institute (IW) German Economic Institute (IW)

Debate on whether the European Union (EU) should accept new members has recently gained momentum. In June 2022, just months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Council granted both the latter nation and the Republic of Moldova the status of candidate country, and Georgia the status of potential candidate.

All three states now enjoy association agreements with the EU. The countries of the Western Balkans have already been offered a road to accession in principle, and in their relationship to the EU, too, movement is now perceptible. While the stabilisation and association agreements which govern their links to Brussels have already contributed to an improvement, the region’s economy remains well below the level of existing Member States. Moreover, the Western Balkan countries need to step up their commitment to combatting corruption and enforcing the law. The EU is faced with the problem that any future widening will necessarily conflict with the deepening of the union, a dilemma which the friction caused by the latest enlargement, which brought in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, made clear. Adding a further eight or nine countries would significantly increase the number of potential vetoes and thus threaten the EU’s ability to act. In view of this, due consideration should be given to alternatives to full membership, though such a new architecture would, ideally, continue to promote close political and economic cooperation in Europe.

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EU Enlargement? Alternative concepts to full membership
Berthold Busch / Samina Sultan IW-Analyse No. 152 12. January 2023

EU Enlargement? Alternative concepts to full membership

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German Economic Institute (IW) German Economic Institute (IW)

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