Swedish presidency confidential document: EU fears enlargement will cost it a lot of money

The integration of the new members will depend not only on the fulfillment of the criteria by the candidate countries, but also on the capacity of the Union itself to continue and deepen its own development, including the capacity for the integration of new members, it is written in the Swedish document in which "Free press" had an insight.

The European Union is conducting an internal debate on how much the enlargement with the Western Balkans and Ukraine will cost the European budget and how it will affect the work of the European institutions, for which an informal confidential document of the Swedish EU presidency is already circulating, which analyzes its ability to receive new member states. The biggest concern of Brussels, as diplomatic sources say, is of course the budget on which the cohesion and agricultural policies depend.

The document, which "Sloboden Pechat" had an insight into and which will be the basis for the debate on the future enlargement of the ministers of European affairs of the EU, on June 21 and 22 in Stockholm, contains ten areas which the enlargement could affect and possibly lead to to changes in some of the current rules.

Our sources, however, say that the very fact that there is a debate about the impact of enlargement on the functioning of the Union is a kind of confirmation that the perspective of the admission of new members has become much more concrete than before. According to them, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, serious steps regarding the expansion have become a geopolitical imperative, so there is pressure to make a decision to open membership negotiations with Ukraine by the end of the year. That, in turn, makes the EU think about what kind of enlargement it wants.

Referring to the conclusions of the EU leaders from December last year, the Swedish document states that the integration of the new members will depend not only on the fulfillment of the criteria by the candidate countries, but also on the capacity of the European Union itself to continue and deepen its own development. , including the capacity for integration of new members.

The impact of enlargement on the common European treasury

One of the main questions in the Swedish document is how the admission of potentially ten new members who are on the waiting list will affect the common European treasury. This issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, but expansionary sentiment could also be dampened in Eastern European countries if their share of the pie from European funds is reduced.

The document warns that possible new member states will become "net beneficiaries of the EU budget, from which they will receive significant funds for their development after accession within the framework of efforts to reduce inequality in the bloc", and the most significant impact of enlargement will be on " cohesion policy and agricultural policies". This does not include the reconstruction of Ukraine, which will have to be dealt with separately because the costs for that are much higher than those for the accession process.

The impact that the enlargement will have on the common agricultural and cohesive policy of the EU, for which 62 percent of the European budget is spent, i.e. 1.070 billion euros for the period from 2021 to 2027, is mentioned. As a reminder, the cohesion policy of the EU aims to reduce the differences between the regions of the EU, and especially to support the less developed regions.

"Taking into account the level of development of the candidate countries and the fact that the cohesion funds are intended for less developed regions in terms of strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion, improving the quality of life of EU citizens and providing for EU priorities, the current rules and budget items will have to be changed," the document says.

A similar change is likely to be needed in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to the size and specificity of the agricultural sector in some of the candidate countries. And CAP is of vital importance to the largest such as France, Spain, Germany or Poland.

The third area indicated in the document is the rule of law and respect for European values ​​within the Union, including freedom, security and justice, as well as possible effects on the Schengen area. In order to ensure adherence to those values ​​after joining the EU, the existing mechanisms for respecting the rule of law will probably have to be improved in the enlarged EU, as an example of which is the possibility of making European funds conditional on respecting the rule of law, an offense procedure and similar measures.

With the enlargement, as added in the document, the population of the EU could increase from 450 million inhabitants to 512 million, which will have consequences on the functioning of the single market, the freedom of movement of people, capital services and goods, as well as on the common foreign and security policy. Such an expanded Union would also have new external borders, a larger territory, population and different geopolitical interests, which would certainly affect the EU's relations with third countries.

The document also states that the enlargement of the European Union can have a special impact on the area of ​​the green transition, as well as on the transport policy.

How to reform the way of decision-making

At the meeting in Stockholm, a new enlargement mechanism will be discussed, namely a type of differentiated membership for which France has already announced that the member states have until the end of 2023 to specify this mechanism and the need to reform the decision-making method.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron recently confirmed from Bratislava that "yes, the EU must expand."

– Yes, it must be rethought in terms of the management structure and goals. Yes, we must be innovative, invent several formats and clarify the objectives of each of these formats - Macron said.

He added that it is the only way to fulfill the legitimate expectations of the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, which must join the EU, but at the same time must maintain the geopolitical effectiveness, climate, rule of law and economic integration in the EU as it is. that exists today. But Macron warned that we don't need enlargement as much as having it, because that would be a second mistake and such an enlargement would weaken the Union, so he reminded that the Union was never made for infinite geographical expansion.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz previously said that Europe must keep its promise of expansion, but before that it needs to reform. The last reform of the EU was completed by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009.

There is no timing and no order for countries to join the EU

The Swedish document warns that the impact of the enlargements on the EU will depend on the size of the country and the order of accession, and there is no timing for it yet.

As a reminder, at the meeting last June, the European Council granted the status of a candidate country to Ukraine and Moldova, and on December 15 to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with which they joined Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.

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