EU enlargement: The new methodology has passed, it's time for Macron's new formats

The French president admits that enlargement needs to happen quickly for geopolitical reasons, but also that the existing method of enlargement is not working. On the other hand, he emphasizes that the EU was not created for "endless expansion" and that expansion without reforms of the EU would be a "disaster", says Malinka Ristevska Jordanova for "Sloboden Pechat"

After four years ago he put the expansion of the European Union on hold on the grounds that there should first be a reform of the negotiation process, i.e. a new methodology, and then allow the entry of new members, French President Emmanuel Macron, at the "Globsec" conference in Bratislava has called for the enlargement of the Union, but to do so, several formats need to be devised to deal with the membership aspirations of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The new methodology has passed, now it's time for new formats, and in the meantime, on his initiative, the European Political Community, which held the second summit in Moldova yesterday, became functional.

In short, the current status quo is not an option, but rapid enlargement with new members, without prior reforms of the EU institutions, is not an option either.

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

Macron: To avoid mistakes that would affect security

According to him, this is the only way to meet the legitimate expectations of the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, which must join the European Union and maintain geopolitical effectiveness, but also the climate, the rule of law and economic integration. in the EU as it exists today. Now Macron is warning that the Union must avoid mistakes regarding enlargement, which would affect its security.

- The first mistake would be to remain the status quo, to give hope to the Western Balkans, for example, to Moldova and others, and to play on the time factor. I believe that would be a huge mistake. I think that would give space to those who would like to destabilize Europe. We would wake up one morning and the situation would be much more dramatic - said Macron.

However, as always, there is a "but", so the French president says that there is no need for enlargement, as long as there is enlargement, 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 expansion within geographical limits.

- Therefore, attention should be paid to the specifics of the new member states, which will become partners in all sensitive areas of the EU, and the Union will therefore set new and new conditions for them in different areas. The Union needs to be expanded, but at the same time it needs a reform of its management, different formats of debates and to know who is exactly responsible for what, and the countries of the Western Balkans and Moldova should know that - said Macron.

Ristevska Jordanova: Reminds of old ideas about concentric circles

What do experts say about Macron's new attitude? Malinka Ristevska Jordanova, an expert on the EU, assesses that the French president changes the rhetoric about the enlargement in nuances, but at the same time leaves many unanswered questions and controversies.

- He admits that the expansion should happen quickly, for geopolitical reasons, but also that the existing method of expansion does not work. On the other hand, he emphasizes that the EU was not created for "endless expansion" and that expansion without reforms of the EU would be a "catastrophe" - says Ristevska Jordanova in a statement for "Sloboden Pechat".

According to her, the reforms in the EU inevitably mean prolongation of the enlargement process due to the complexity of the process and the diversity of the member states.

- In addition, Macron's insistence on "new mechanisms, objectives and formats" in reforming the Union and "modes of cooperation by area" as a way for the EU to deal with candidates inevitably recalls the old ideas of concentric circles and variable geometry - older ideas with French provenance, or the newer proposals and ideas for "phased integration" – she explains.

For the political scientist Ivo Rangelovic, on the other hand, Macron's statement, like any in the past period, is contextualized in relation to the situation in Ukraine, as well as within the framework of the EU itself.

– The statement announces the reformation of the Union before its enlargement, which is an additional problem for us. Brussels must as soon as possible find a format that will speed up the accession of the Western Balkans to the EU, otherwise it has to gamble with the frustration of the societies in the region - says Rangjelovic for "Sloboden Pechat".

According to him, Macron's statement has face value until the Union makes at least a formal decision on enlargement.

And the road to a formal decision on expansion is long. The European Commission maintains that they are behind the enlargement and the support of the candidate countries, but remind that the enlargement is a process managed by the institutions through serious procedures.

No less important is the position of the Union that the progress of each country will depend on its own merits in fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria, while taking into account the capacity of the EU to accept new members. As a significant impact, among other things, the influence of future enlargements on the EU budget, that is, the Union's financial capacity to support its policies, is mentioned. The new members, according to the EU, would become beneficiaries of the European budget, receiving significant funds for development.

And while Macron's vague statement is being interpreted, the Macedonian government informed that the French president welcomed the government's determination to work on the implementation of the European agenda and announced the continuation of the "strong and loud support of France". Kovacevski and Macron also agreed that now is the moment to make a clear step in the approach path, as the constitutional amendments were interpreted, and to enable the successful integration of North Macedonia into the EU.

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