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In this week’s edition: Ukraine’s candidate status, the woes of the food crisis and the frustration over the enlargement of the Western Balkans.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revived a process considered dead.
But European leaders will have to ensure that no further nails are driven into his metaphorical coffin when they meet for an EU summit later this month.
The European Commission is expected to deliver its formal opinion on Ukraine’s membership application on Friday 17 June. The issue will then be debated and formally decided by the Council at the June 23-24 summit.
It is true that the enlargement process in the Western Balkan countries was rather more problematic than that of the Central European countries before 2004.
Since then, the EU has opened accession negotiations with two Western Balkan states (Montenegro and Serbia) and Turkey.
He also gave the green light to accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, although they are still awaiting the start of talks, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo remain potential candidates.
But for the process, there are two key points that should not be forgotten.
First, EU enlargement is first and foremost a geopolitical process, and the decision to be taken by European leaders later this month should be seen as such.
EU leaders have quickly recognized the strategic importance of the region and the link between calculated investments and geopolitics is a clear way to maintain proximity to the Western Balkans. This is particularly important when EU competitors compete for influence in the region without any strings attached.
A similar reflection can be observed in the countries of the associated trio, but with one main difference.
To grant them EU candidate status is to outlive them. This gives them a new geostrategic focus to anchor themselves firmly with Brussels rather than constantly having to watch their backs for Moscow’s next leg.
The bottom line is that if the EU does not reconsider its enlargement policy, more European countries could fall prey to Russian aggression or influence.
Secondly, EU enlargement is a long process.
EU membership is open and does not guarantee membership if candidate countries do not meet the conditions Community Acquis and procedural expectations. They will have to work on the deliverables but will only be able to do so if the process is actually launched.
Ukraine’s short-term future is a matter of survival and reconstruction, which will take precedence over the fact that it has adopted much of the EU legal framework since accepting its trade and political partnership. with the EU almost ten years ago.
None of these countries think they can join tomorrow.
But saying “no” or “a little later” could nullify all the efforts, work and investments that have been made to bring these countries together.
We Europeans, sitting comfortably within a peaceful and prosperous bloc, tend to underestimate the power that the symbol of a European flag flying in countries too long shaken by unrest and external threats can have.
What is the cost of not go forward?
- Zhovkva: We don’t deserve a “Bosnian scenario” on EU candidate status. Failure to grant Ukraine EU candidate status later this month would signal to Russia Europe’s weakness and could plunge the country into the waiting room of perpetual enlargement, said Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s foreign policy adviser, Ihor Zhovkva, told EURACTIV.
- Von der Leyen makes a surprise visit to Kyiv to discuss Ukraine’s EU candidacy. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a surprise visit to Kyiv, the second trip to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, to discuss Ukraine’s EU bid with the President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
- Ukraine is making diplomatic efforts to convince skeptics of the EU accession process. Ukraine has launched a charm offensive in recent weeks to convince the still skeptical capitals of Western Europe to grant the country EU candidate status and avoid the pitfall of amalgamating with two other hopes, Moldova and Georgia.
- Food security in times of crisis. Food security has become paramount since the beginning of the Russian war in Ukraine, which has shaken the agri-food sector. Ukraine cannot count on Putin to honor his word and grant safe passage to grain ships, German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said during a visit to Kyiv. Meanwhile, despite an adequate and friendly global response, the only option to restore Ukraine’s grain exports is to win the war, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister told EURACTIV.
- Saluting Peter the Great, Putin draws a parallel with the mission to “return” Russian lands. Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute to Tsar Peter the Great, drawing a parallel between what he described as their twin historic quests to reclaim Russian lands.
THE EU IN THE WORLD
COMMERCIAL PUSH | After more than eight years of stalled negotiations on a comprehensive trade deal between the EU and India, the two sides are expected to officially resume talks from June 17, with the aim of reaching a deal before the two are go to the polls in 2024.
HUNGER HOTSPOTS | Acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further in 20 countries – known as ‘hunger hotspots’ – over the coming months, according to a new report from the world’s leading food organisations, which warn that the current situation is already worse than when of the 2011 Arab Spring.
MIGRATION PACT | The EU’s longstanding efforts to reform its asylum policy achieved a small breakthrough this week when France said “a large majority” of member states backed a plan to relocate migrants.
MINISTERIAL OF NATO | NATO defense ministers are due to meet this week in two sessions, one on deterrence and defense and burden sharing and the other being a joint session with NATO partners, the EU, Finland, Sweden, Ukraine and Georgia.
The elephant in the room will be NATO membership and whether Turkey drops its opposition to Helsinki and Stockholm’s bid. For many observers, it is remarkable how Ankara, a member of NATO and a country that claims to aspire one day to join the EU, is currently positioning itself vis-à-vis Russia.
On the sidelines, the third meeting of the Ramstein group in support of Ukraine should be held. Expect to hear more about the weapons Western nations pledge to supply.
GHOST PLANE | A small plane toyed with the nerves of the air defenses of six NATO members before landing at a small airfield in Bulgaria earlier this week, where the pilot and passengers quickly disappeared.
ARM MISFORTUNE | During communism, the Romanian state was one of the world’s leading arms exporters, with a workforce of 230,000. Today, the public sector employs only 10,000 people, its factories are in debt and stakeholders are uncertain about the future.
WAITING ROOM | The stalled EU accession process has become a security concern amid increasing influence of foreign actors in the vulnerable Western Balkan region, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia told EURACTIV, Dimitar Kovacevski.
MEMBERSHIP OFFER | Kosovo will apply for EU membership at the end of this year and if it does apply, only Bosnia and Herzegovina will remain a potential candidate, with Serbia and Montenegro opening chapters.
ALIGNMENT OF SANCTIONS | While EU candidate Serbia has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, it has so far refused to impose sanctions on Moscow. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Belgrade to join us.
WHAT ELSE WE READ
ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT DAYS…
- Kultaranta Talks, hosted by Finnish President Niinisto with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg
| Sunday, June 12, 2022 | Naantali, Finland
- SIPRI World Nuclear Weapons Report
| Sunday, June 12, 2022 | Stockholm, Sweden
- Foreign Affairs (Trade) Council on the sidelines of the WTO Ministerial meeting
| Sun-Wed, June 12-15, 2022 | Geneva, Switzerland
- Swedish Prime Minister Andersson receives NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg
| Monday, June 13, 2022 | Harpsund, Sweden
- French President Macron visits Romania, Moldova, (Ukraine?)
| Tue-Wed, June 14-15, 2022 |
- Czech government presents EU Presidency logo and priorities
| Wednesday, June 15, 2022 | Prague, Czech Republic
- UN war crimes investigators talk about their findings
| Wednesday, June 15, 2022 | Kyiv, Ukraine
- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts Ukrainian Defense Contact Group
| Wednesday, June 15, 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
- NATO defense ministers meet ahead of Madrid summit
| Wed-Thu, 15-16 June 2022 | Brussels, Belgium
- Yemen International Forum
| Friday, June 17, 2022 | Stockholm, Sweden
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[Edited by Alice Taylor]