EU Considers Blocking New Members from Blocking other Candidates

A special clause in the countries’ accession treaties to the European Union can ensure that they cannot block other applicants immediately after entry.

This was stated by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, at the Strategic Forum in Bled, which gathered heads of state and government from the Western Balkans and other countries, including Bulgaria and Greece.
Amid renewed doubts from France about the bloc’s readiness to accept new members, Michel also backed elements of existing proposals for phased EU integration.

“Ideally, they would all join together, but still the future countries in the bloc are at different stages and it must be ensured that they do not block each other in the course of negotiations if one becomes part of the union and others do not”, Michel said in his speech in Bled.

The candidates for membership and the countries leading or willing to start negotiations are mainly from the Western Balkans – Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina – and between many they drag unresolved issues that could make the accession of any of them in a stopper for another.

“One way could be to add a so-called ‘confidence clause’ in accession treaties to ensure that countries that have just joined cannot block the accession of future member states,” Michel said.

Grading, on the other hand, can be expressed, for example, in step-by-step and progressive integration in specific areas such as the single market – introduction of candidates in specific elements of European cooperation, energy or transport communities.

A country may also participate in the relevant configuration of the Council (probably referring to, for example, the Councils on General Affairs, Agriculture and others, at ministerial level) after concluding negotiations on a given political chapter, Michel continued, adding that the next meeting the EU – Western Balkans summit will be held in December, parallel to the European Council.

Another area for gradual integration may be in security and defense. “We could invite interested future member states to participate more actively in some policies or instruments, such as Common Security and Defense Policy missions, our defense fund or the European Peace Support Mechanism,” said Michel, who agreed with the fundamental need for internal reform in the EU as well – not as barriers to accession, but as a means of increasing the effectiveness of the EU.

“Let’s be honest – we have sometimes used the lack of progress of prospective member states to avoid having to face the question of our own readiness,” said the President of the European Council. “People’s hearts may be our biggest challenge. This involves explaining the EU and highlighting its benefits.
This is a public choice. It also means moving beyond the language of the past to focus on the future. With real political will, we can make both the EU and the future member states ready,” Michel also said.

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