EU Enlargement

  • How has the Ukraine crisis changed your country’s views on EU enlargement to the Eastern neighbourhood?


“con­di­tion­al sup­port, no enthusiasm”

The Ukraine cri­sis has changed or often rather rein­forced posi­tions on EU enlarge­ment to East­ern Neigh­bour­hood coun­tries. Scep­ti­cal opin­ion on this are voiced by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Aus­tria, Den­mark (“not on the table”), Fin­land (“focus on ful­fill­ing acces­sion cri­te­ria”), Italy, Lux­em­bourg (“opposed”), Slove­nia (“no emp­ty promis­es by the EU”), Spain, and Ger­many with excep­tions such as in the Green party.

Oth­ers are more sup­port­ive of the idea with posi­tions hard­ly changed due to the cri­sis: Croa­t­ia, Latvia (“but not aggres­sive­ly so”), Lithua­nia (“broth­er­hood with Ukraine”), Poland (less enthu­si­as­tic even though they see the lack of mem­ber­ship as one of the prob­lems in the country’s rela­tions with Rus­sia as they see that oth­er mem­ber states strong­ly oppose it), Roma­nia, (espe­cial­ly for Moldo­va increased sense of urgency), Slo­va­kia  (con­tin­u­ous­ly), Swe­den (but not easy to get there).

In oth­er mem­ber states, the scep­ti­cal posi­tion is unchanged by the Ukraine cri­sis. These include Cyprus, France, Greece, Hun­gary (even more scep­ti­cal, focus­es on Rus­sia), The Nether­lands, and the Unit­ed King­dom where the government’s opin­ion has moved clos­er to the scep­ti­cal opin­ion of the gen­er­al pub­lic. Only two reports men­tion that the pub­lic debate in their coun­tries is less focused on the issue, name­ly those of Greece and Italy. Some reports point out the widen­ing gap between Ukraine, Moldo­va and Geor­gia on the one hand and Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan and Belarus on the oth­er hand, includ­ing the reports from Slo­va­kia and Spain.

Over­all it can be said that while in many mem­ber states the over­all approach to the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood has not changed dras­ti­cal­ly, it is nonethe­less the result of an increased debate and a seri­ous reflec­tion process. In addi­tion, there seems to be stronger aware­ness and often­times accep­tance of the posi­tions of oth­er mem­ber states.


  • In your country, what are the key concerns and dominant views regarding EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and Turkey, and which considerations regarding EU expansion are more/less important than previously thought?


“gen­er­al sup­port, no mir­a­cles expect­ed, ques­tion mark on Turkey”

Con­cern­ing gen­er­al posi­tions on enlarge­ment with­out focus­ing on a spe­cif­ic region, Fin­land puts a strong focus on the appli­cant coun­tries ful­fill­ing the required acces­sion cri­te­ria, their approach is rules based with­out a detailed dis­cus­sion on indi­vid­ual can­di­dates. With respect to the Nether­lands, the Dutch gov­ern­ment is over­all sup­port­ive. How­ev­er this posi­tion is not backed by soci­etal sup­port since the fear of migrant work­ers on the wages and hous­ing sit­u­a­tion pre­vail. Ger­many too is over­all less enthu­si­as­tic about enlarge­ment and focus­es on the appli­ca­tion of the acces­sion criteria.

As regards the West­ern Balka­ns, there is a strong, almost unan­i­mous sup­port for mem­ber­ship in gen­er­al. This is empha­sised in the reports from Aus­tria, Croa­t­ia, Den­mark, Ger­many, Greece (with some con­cerns on Mace­do­nia, Turkey and Cyprus), Hun­gary (ener­gy secu­ri­ty, migra­tion issues), Italy, Lux­em­bourg, Roma­nia, Slove­nia, Spain, and Swe­den which is con­vinced that enlarge­ment leads to sta­bil­i­ty. While the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment ques­tioned Jean Claude Juncker’s remark that there would be no enlarge­ments in the next five years, the Nether­lands sup­port­ed this posi­tion. The top­ic is rarely debat­ed in Lithua­nia and Poland, while the report from Slo­va­kia voiced some con­cerns about polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty and eth­nic con­flicts. Anoth­er two aspects some­times men­tioned are the non-recog­ni­tion of Kosovo’s inde­pen­dence by some mem­ber states (Roma­nia, Slo­va­kia) and the role of Rus­sia in the region.

The rela­tion­ship with Turkey is increas­ing­ly present in the debates unfold­ing a stronger vari­ety of posi­tions. For some coun­tries this is due to focus on secu­ri­ty and migra­tion issues (espe­cial­ly Aus­tria, Ger­many). The report from Italy men­tions the acces­sion process as a point of lever­age to fos­ter Ankara’s com­pli­ance, how­ev­er here the gov­ern­ment is more sup­port­ive than the pub­lic in this case. Latvia’s inter­est in Turkey is high­er than in the West­ern Balka­ns. In Lithua­nia, both regions are rarely debat­ed. The inter­est of Lux­em­bourg is pri­mar­i­ly based on eco­nom­ic inter­ests but oth­ers gen­er­al­ly sup­port acces­sion as well (Croa­t­ia, Slove­nia, Spain, Swe­den, Unit­ed King­dom), while France is more wary. This issue is linked to the Cyprus ques­tion in the coun­try and is all in all rarely debat­ed in Poland, Roma­nia, and Slovakia.

When look­ing at the over­all pic­ture, it appears that the cleav­age on the ques­tion of Enlarge­ment towards the East­ern Neigh­bours con­tin­ues to delin­eate an east west divide, while the pic­ture on the West­ern Balka­ns and Turkey is more mixed.



Co-fund­ed by the Europe for Cit­i­zens Pro­gramme of the Euro­pean Union

This EU-28 Watch is part of the a project called ‘East­ern Neigh­bours and Rus­sia: Close links with EU cit­i­zens’ (ENURC) in col­lab­o­ra­tion with TEPSA (Trans Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion). The project focus­es on devel­op­ing EU cit­i­zens’ under­stand­ing of the top­ic of the East­ern Neigh­bour­hood and Rus­sia and aims at encour­ag­ing their inter­est and involve­ment in this pol­i­cy which has an impact on their dai­ly lives.

The EU-28 Watch project is map­ping out the dis­cours­es on these issues in Euro­pean poli­cies all over Europe. Research insti­tutes from all 28 mem­ber states are invit­ed to give overviews on the dis­cours­es in their respec­tive countries.

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2015. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2015. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the recent­ly relaunched EU-28 Watch web­site:

The EU-28 Watch No. 11 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.