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Germany’s Proposal for “Enlargement and Reform in the EU”

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The history of the European Union (EU) is full of efforts to spread the ideals of unity to more countries. These enlargement policies aim to create a platform for consensus and cooperation, encompassing the economic, political and cultural harmonization processes of the candidate countries. These processes require candidate countries to adapt to EU standards, strengthen democratic institutions and demonstrate their commitment to the Union’s values.

Each enlargement period has had a significant impact on the development and security of both the EU and the candidate countries. However, enlargement processes have also generated internal debates and challenges, necessitating a balancing act.

As of 2013, the EU’s latest enlargement move was the accession of Croatia to the EU. Croatia officially joined the EU on July 1, 2013, becoming the 28th member state of the Union. Croatia’s accession to the EU required the country to undertake a series of economic and political reforms and was considered as part of the EU’s enlargement policy.

No state has entered the Union for exactly 10 years, but negotiations have been held with many countries in the name of enlargement. Many states within the European Union could not come to a common consensus on enlargement. The fact that this enlargement period is more differentiated than other periods is actually their common wish.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a statement on November 2, 2023,[1] She said that the EU should embark on bold reforms as it prepares for enlargement. Speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers, EU and academic representatives in Berlin, Annalena Baerbock proposed abolishing the current system of appointing a commissioner for each of the 27 countries. She emphasized that the European Parliament and the Commission cannot be allowed to grow even larger.

She proposed to change the “unanimity” rule, which in some cases, including in highly sensitive areas such as taxation, security and foreign policy, has led to the blocking of European Union initiatives by the veto of a single member state. It is foreseeable that this proposal will change the relations of states with many countries in terms of the decisions they take. At the same time, it would pave the way for not only bilateral relations, but also for broad decisions involving many states globally.

Annalena Baerbock warned against an “all or nothing” approach to enlargement and suggested, for example, that countries in the accession process should be allowed to attend Council meetings before becoming full members. The German Foreign Minister also acknowledged the recent divisions within the EU over the recent crises: [2]

“We play different roles and have different views. It has not always been easy to find a common language on this issue. There are no easy answers. Fighting for compromise will always be part of the EU.”

Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian War, the EU’s ambitions for enlargement seem to have increased. Enlargement can be seen as a geopolitical imperative as well as a necessity for the EU.

Annalena Baerbock emphasized that twenty years ago the Western Balkans were told that the EU would open its doors if conditions were met, but this did not happen, leading to disappointment:“We must therefore ask ourselves how to organize the accession process so that another generation does not spend their lives in the waiting room.” [3]

In conclusion, the bold reform proposals put forward by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reflect criticism of the EU’s current structures and demands for change. They aim to make the EU’s decision-making processes more effective and facilitate growth and enlargement within the Union. The need to deal with the EU’s internal divisions and crises emphasizes the urgency of reforms.


[1] Suzanne Lynch, “Germany’s Baerbock Pitches Radical EU Reform As Bloc Eyes Expansion.”, Politico, https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-annalena-baerbock-radical-eu-reform-eu-commission/, (Erişim Tarihi: 03.11.2023).

[2] Same page.

[3] ‘‘High-Level Conference In Germany: There Is Consensus On EU Enlargement And Reform, Roadmap Needed.”, European Western Balkans, https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2023/11/02/high-level-conference-in-germany-there-is-consensus-on-eu-enlargement-and-reform-roadmap-needed/, (Erişim Tarihi: 03.11.2023).

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