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: www.eu-28watch.org.
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.