Warsaw, Poland – Nine EU countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic, have pushed back against France’s proposal to reform the EU enlargement process before taking in any new member state.
According to Politico, nine EU member states (Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovenia) have drafted a 3-page counter-resolution to discard France’s insistence on the need to overhaul the enlargement process before moving forward with Western Balkan states’ membership talks.
France proposes to reform EU enlargement process
After controversially blocking EU accession talks for North Macedonia and Albania, France argued the EU needed to reform its enlargement process before allowing any more countries to follow the path to membership.
The French proposal, outlined in a so-called “non-paper”, would do away with the current process, that allows multiple accession chapters to be opened simultaneously in membership talks, replacing them with a seven-stage process which would put a strong emphasis on rule of law issues.
“The profound political, economic and social transformations required for a future accession to the European Union continue to be too slow and the concrete benefits for citizens in candidate countries remain insufficient”, the document states.
But everyone isn’t convinced by Paris’ approach. “All this can’t mask the fact that the French proposals are not really about reforming the accession process but about putting an end to EU enlargement”, a diplomat said after the release of Paris’ plan.
Nine member states claim reform and accession talks can go hand-in-hand
Intended as a direct response to the French proposal, the new document put forward by the nine EU member states agrees that the enlargement process should be reformed, but considers that EU accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania should still move forward even if the rules are being reviewed: “Internal EU reform cannot be a precondition for enlargement”.
An “enhanced approach to accession” should be “without prejudice to the decisions on opening the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia which should be taken by March 2020 at the latest in order to live up to the EU’s commitments”, it states.
According to Politico, Poland, Austria, Italy and Slovenia spearheaded efforts to draft the document, before being joined by five other EU countries.
Poland and the Czech Republic, along with their two Visegrad allies Hungary and Slovakia, have long been outspoken supporters of the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans.