The European Union must be aware of its responsibility for what is happening in its neighborhood and find a constructive balance between ensuring the civilizational unity of Europe and EU enlargement
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo expressed this opinion at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.
“We often lose ourselves in discussions on enlargement (EU – ed.). Expansion is an administratively difficult process. There are reasons why this is a difficult process. We, as European countries, must create an Acquis communautaire for the acceding countries. The bar is quite high. We know that it took the Balkan countries almost a decade to make these efforts. I think it is important for us, for the European Union, to support them in completing these reforms that will lead to enlargement,” said the head of the Belgian Federal Government.
He noted that the situation in Ukraine has changed priorities. It is important that the EU continues to stand side by side with Ukraine and at the same time maintain unity, which came as a surprise to Putin. Europe has shown solidarity with Ukraine in many dimensions, including in the supply of arms. At the same time, according to De Croo, there should be no issues that can divide Europe, because it is unity today that is the key to the strength of the European Union.
“I also think that we must give a clear answer to the choice of Ukrainians to remain part of the free world, where democracy and open society function, where we have agreements. But these agreements cannot be achieved with weapons, they are achieved in debate, with the help of words. We must find a way to anchor Ukraine, Moldova and other countries as part of a democratic and free Europe. In my opinion, this is what the unification of the continent means. For some countries, this may be part of the expansion procedure. But the most important thing is that we, as the European Union, are aware of the responsibility that exists in our neighborhood,” said the head of the Belgian government.
Answering the question of journalists about the idea of French President Macron about a certain alternative unification of Europe, whether it would lead to the erosion of the unity of the EU and whether Ukraine itself would agree to any facilitated option, EU-light, De Croo said: “The last thing we must to do is to debate the terms, membership or non-membership. I have already said that the membership process is lengthy, it can take more than 10 years. I hope that the war in Ukraine will end soon. But it would be a huge mistake on our part to say, “OK, you are part of the process, so see you again in 10-15 years.” Our role must be much more active, both in the physical reconstruction of this country and in its non-material development. We need to make it very clear that they are part of the free world, part of the discussion when it comes to certain joint programs. But these two processes must run in parallel… One does not exclude the other, although they should not be linked.”
The Prime Minister of Belgium noted that the European Union should be much more creative in its vision of the type of relationship that can be built with Ukraine and other countries “that look in our direction”: offer them an open community with democracy, help them develop, promote transformations. According to De Cros, this process is different from enlargement, although it does not exclude it in the future, as a particular country is ready for EU membership.
“The expansion process is a long process, administrative and often frustrating. But the EU has a role to play on the continent… Now is the moment when tough and clear answers are expected from us. The European Union often starts to move during times of crisis. Right now it’s a crisis. We must take advantage of this momentum, this moment, to move forward,” said the Belgian politician.
As reported, on February 28, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted Ukraine’s application for membership in the European Union. An informal EU summit held in Versailles on March 10 adopted a resolution in which European leaders unanimously recognized “Ukraine’s European aspirations and European choice, as outlined in the Association Agreement.”
EU leaders also acknowledged that Ukraine belongs to the European family and called on the European Commission to provide its findings on Ukraine’s application. According to the procedure, Ukraine completed two parts of the European Commission questionnaire on compliance with the political criteria for EU membership and the country’s adaptation to the Acquis communautaire.