Leaving deadlock behind: Does the war against Ukraine represent a critical juncture for EU’s enlargement policy?

May 7, 2024 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Europe/Rome Timezone
Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia
Valentina Gorgoni
Join Antoaneta Dimitrova as she discusses the challenges with Western Balkans EU candidacy, and the potential impact of Ukraine’s membership application amidst the war.

The European Union’s enlargement policy has been in deadlock for the last decade. Both aspects of the policy of enlargement, as a process of negotiations towards accession and as a process of reform and preparation of future member states, have been unsuccessful with respect to the long standing candidates in the Western Balkans. The war against Ukraine and Ukraine’s application for membership may represent an opening for fundamental change in the EU’s enlargement policy, a critical juncture. This paper discusses the conditions and mechanisms under which enlargement policy can re-orient towards a new path, utilising the logics of institutionalist theories. Under conditions of unanimity decision making, the deadlock on enlargement may be resolved when preferences of the member states change or when rhetorical action increases the costs of a veto on enlargement.

Examining two years of decision making after the start of the war, the paper argues that the enlargement policy is on a new path, yet existing constraints have not been entirely removed. The prospect of enlargement of the European Union has always opened the debate between widening and deepening, between adding new members and reform of existing institutions and policies. This is especially the case when prospective new members have the potential to affect and unbalance the policies and distributive bargains inside the EU. With respect to the CAP and the budget, the costs of future reform of the EU continue to be high for member states and therefore, next to war, instability and credibility of reforms in candidate states, the key issue regarding accession may be whether debates on reform can find low-cost solutions.