July 17, 2014
In his speech on 15 July to the European Parliament, the new president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, outlined the political guidelines for the Commission, under “A new start for Europe: Agenda for jobs, growth, fairness and democratic change”. His agenda is summarized in 10 policy areas. One of them is “9. A stronger Global Actor”, which includes the future of enlargement and the role of the next High Representative for Europe’s Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR).
As regards next HR, Mr Juncker is critical against how the European External Action Service (EEAS) is working. “We cannot be satisfied with how our common foreign policy is working at the moment. We need better mechanisms in place to anticipate events early and to swiftly identify common responses. We need to be more effective in bringing together the tools of Europe’s external action.”
Indirect criticism seems also to be levelled at the current HR. “The next HR will also have to be a strong and experienced player to combine national and European tools, and all the tools available in the Commission, in a more effective way than in the past.” In this part of the new agenda, Mr Juncker concurs with the recent audit report by the European Court of Auditors and his proposals seem to address some the shortcomings identified in the report.
But the part concerning enlargement reads as an anti-climax after all the ambitious guidelines and ideas for the other policy areas. According to Mr Juncker, “the EU needs to take a break from enlargement so that we can consolidate what has been achieved among the 28.” While “ongoing negotiations will continue, and notably the Western Balkans will need to keep a European perspective, no further enlargement will take place over the next five years”.
This is clearly a break with the enlargement strategy until now where no fix dates were set and every candidate country could hope to make progress toward EU accession in its own pace and become an EU member when it was ready and fulfilled all the conditions. Normally this took more than 5 years so in practice the new guidelines might not change anything but it cannot be excluded that there is a candidate country that could have accelerated the accession process.
The new guidelines seem to send a negative message to all candidate countries telling them that whatever their efforts, they won’t manage to join EU within next five year period. Is this also the message that will be given at the enlargement conference on Western Balkans which Germany has announced that it plans to arrange towards the end of August?m.apelblat