European Council President Sets 2030 Target for EU Expansion: Aims to Boost Global Influence and Overcome Past Conflicts
August 30, 2023
EU Expansion Goals Set by European Council President
The European Council President, Charles Michel, has proposed a fresh timeline for the European Union’s (EU) enlargement. In upcoming EU leader meetings, the main focus will be on expanding the trade bloc by 2030. This strategy aims to increase EU’s influence and assertiveness, and to help reshape the world’s approach to development. Additionally, in his speech at the Bled Strategic Forum, Michel emphasized the importance of adhering to a merit-based process for membership. This approach “lays out the economic, judicial, and administrative reforms necessary for a country to join”, rather than allowing past conflicts to hinder the process.
The Recent History of EU Expansion
The last substantial EU expansion took place in the early 2000s when it incorporated Central and Eastern Europe. However, starting in the 2010s, a new wave of thought emerged. The European debt and migrant crises fueled Euroskepticism, which eventually led to the UK voting to leave the EU during the 2016 Brexit referendum. In recent times, however, “the UK’s economic struggles, the impact of COVID-19, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have all bolstered pro-European sentiment”, although many challenges still need to be addressed to encourage greater integration.
New Members Welcomed by EU
As of June 2022, Ukraine and Moldova have been formally recognized as EU candidates. Furthermore, the EU has been working diligently to expedite the membership process for several Balkan nations that have been seeking membership for decades. Georgia is also recognized as a potential member, although membership discussions with Turkey are currently on hold. In his speech, Michel identified some of these nations, acknowledging that the journey to relative prosperity would not be instant. Instead, significant financial aid will be necessary to help these less affluent nations keep pace.
A Bold Step towards EU Enlargement
“To be stronger and safer, the EU needs to reinforce our bonds and become more powerful,” Michel proclaimed. He pointed out that the GDP of future member states is anticipated to be 50-70% of the smallest EU economy. This indicates they will become net recipients, while some current net recipients will turn into net contributors. This complex transition requires strategic management and although it will be difficult and sometimes painful, Michel asserts that “enlargement is no longer a dream. It is time to move forward.