The EU wants to become a world power on an equal footing with global heavyweights such as China and the USA. At the same time, today it cannot even stand up to an aggressive regional power like Russia.
The biggest obstacle is the unwillingness of the Brussels institutions and EU members to acknowledge internal weaknesses and design flaws and to set tough priorities to overcome them. These internal contradictions erupt at the EU summit – at the preliminary decisions on accession procedures for Ukraine and the Western Balkan states.
The sober reality is that if the EU accepts more members without first abolishing the requirement for unanimity in important decisions, it is committing political suicide. Each of the then more than 30 members would have a right of veto; this leads to a permanent blockade of the EU.
Worse still, by expanding without first reforming decision-making mechanisms, the EU is giving China, Russia and other geostrategic rivals an indirect veto right in the EU.
They have long been working on exploiting current and future EU members for themselves. Hungary is blocking the EU’s oil embargo and forcing Russia’s patriarch Kirill, a warmonger on Vladimir Putin’s side, to be exempted from sanctions.
EU candidate Serbia is on Moscow’s side in the Ukraine war. EU candidate Montenegro is economically dependent on China. The list goes on.
After all, the EU has spared itself the most dangerous self-weakening: the admission of Turkey. What would the EU achieve if Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat at the table with the right of veto?
Certainly, the EU summit does not vote on the admission of the shaky candidates, but only on the initiation of accession talks. Proponents argue that the negotiations are aimed at making the candidates eligible to join.
Reassuring statements are also being made about the EU’s absorption capacity: no enlargement without prior internal reform of the EU. Chancellor Olaf Scholz says so in his government statement. But how credible is that? The EU had promised something similar before the most recent major enlargement in 2004 by ten states in the east and south. The constitutional treaty that was supposed to create the conditions failed in referendums in the Netherlands and France.
Practical questions that cannot be postponed – who gets how many seats in Parliament, how many members does the EU Commission have and the like – were clarified in an emergency operation. There was no fundamental reform of the EU.
It will be all right: the EU is so naïvely aiming for the next enlargement to include the Western Balkans and Ukraine. It is publicly promoted with arguments that speak against it on closer inspection.
Three examples of the reversal of pros and cons: Ukraine deserves this perspective because it is at war and fighting for Europe’s values. The opposite is true: the EU does not accept countries with unresolved conflicts. Empathy with the war victim is not a criterion for joining.
Second, the Balkans state in their favor that they are waiting much longer than Ukraine. That speaks not for, but against them. One of the main reasons they are waiting so long is that they are delaying the necessary reforms.
Third, it says the inclusion is important to reduce China’s influence in the Balkans. But an EU that blocks itself through enlargement without abolishing the right of veto is of no use to either the EU or the Balkans. China would be strengthened.
Today’s EU is a sunshine union. It works when everyone cooperates voluntarily. In storms – the euro crisis, violations of the rule of law, migration and asylum – it becomes apparent that there is no lifeguard. She is unable to enforce her contractual obligations. The world is becoming more conflicted. Europe has no future if the EU commits political suicide. Yes to enlargement, but only if majority decisions are the norm in the EU.
This reform is not easy, but it is not impossible either. Many members are reluctant to give up their right of veto. They don’t want to risk being overruled on issues of high national interest. Germany is also hesitating.
In reality, this risk is very limited. In the essential matters, EU members have very similar interests. First and foremost, limits would be drawn on the selfishness of pushing through special interests that damage the community in addition to the community interest.
In addition, the countries that particularly value and use their veto power – for example Poland and others in the east – are also the most energetic advocates of enlargement to include Ukraine and the western Balkans. This increases the chances of reform. For them, enlargement can be the gain that allows them to get over the loss of the right of veto.
The competition between Ukraine and the Western Balkans over who can join earlier can also be viewed constructively: the countries that modernize the fastest and most consistently, fight corruption and overcome doubts about the rule of law. On to the competition!