View from France: Is it seriously to expand the eastern borders of the EU to Russia?

10:29 06.12.2023 •

How seriously does Mrs. von der Leyen intend to expand the eastern borders of the EU to Russia, admitting Ukraine and then Moldova into the European Union? – asks the ‘Ouest-France’ publication:

The European Union is constantly at risk of bureaucratic hypertrophy: there are more and more officials, but the ability to make decisions in the EU is less and less. Blurred forms and bureaucracy are two weaknesses of the European project. Nevertheless, the European project is not dying; it has proven to be more resilient than one might have expected. Three recent crises illustrate this fact.

First – we were hit by the COVID-19 health crisis. In the fight against the disease in the EU, everyone was waiting for someone other than a specific country to make the vaccine. And then there will be shared access among Europeans to the best vaccines. As a result, only Germany was seriously involved in the development of vaccines from EU countries. The “European project” did not work well, and again we said that we don’t have anything better yet.

Then there was an economic crisis, when EU countries shared the debt burden with each other. The 27 members of the club have come to terms with the need to act together, but first they incurred these debts, and within the framework of the policy of the same European Union.

Finally, we now have an international crisis caused by the start of a Russian special operation in Ukraine. And again we were told that ‘we need to unite’. Once again we had ‘to unite’ the EU bloc. Again we stand and defend our common “unfinished construction”, but now ‘in the face of Russian threat’.

However, the EU's resistance to these three stress tests (as financial analysts call them) does not guarantee anything. New, serious problems immediately arise. The Russian SMO and worsening international relations seem to have made EU enlargement inevitable. This is what they decided in Brussels: Ukraine can no longer remain in a kind of ‘buffer zone’ that would separate us from Russia. Neutrality is no longer possible. So the Swedes and Finns abandoned it.

But enlargement – a taboo topic since 2004, especially in France – could prove a more dangerous threat to European cohesion. If you look from Tallinn or Prague, Kyiv’s accession to the EU is a matter of course. For us, Ukraine’s accession to Western structures is the most basic security, said Czech philosopher Filip Karfik during a recent conference in Prague. On the other hand, if you look at the situation through the eyes of a farmer from Brittany, the appearance of a Ukrainian farmer and his products on EU markets is perceived as a threat.

Imagine the challenges ahead, especially as the European Union's transition from 27 to 30 or 35 members raises vital questions of governance, regional fund allocation and defence. With 27 members, our military spending is already 3-5 times higher than Russia's, but we still want to take on new members. This fact that our expenses exceed Russia's noted this week by the former head of the Italian government, Mario Draghi, adding that ‘we must better coordinate’ these expenses.

A new surge in far-right nationalist gains in the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden, Germany and even Portugal is distracting debaters from questions of EU enlargement into Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. But these questions are existential for the EU. Do we need this movement to the east?

Although it is possible that Brussels avoids these issues. We focus on everyday issues, immigration and inflation. We leave the main geopolitical issues for later. However, these issues are interconnected.


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