EU expansion priority for Brussels as bloc push back against Russia

Polish MP criticises Ursula von der Leyen’s ‘fairness’

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The war in Ukraine has pushed EU expansion up the priority list for bloc leaders in Brussels. At least six countries have been told their potential membership of the bloc is on the cards.

Progress on these fronts has stalled in recent years, but is expected to be bolstered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia could join the group of 27 in the coming years.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said Brussels should turn its promises into actions.

He today told a summit involving EU and Balkans leaders: “You need the Balkans – Western Balkans – as much as the Western Balkans need the EU.

“We have to face the future more and more together.”

Brussels last admitted a member – Croatia – to the bloc in 2013.

But one EU Commissioner has insisted the group must expand in order to maintain peace in Europe.

Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi last week said: “Enlargement policy is among the top three priorities of EU leaders.”

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He added: “The only real long-term solution for peace, stability and prosperity is EU membership.”

Luigi Scazzieri, a researcher at the Centre for European Reform, has, however, claimed that out of those touted to be next in the bloc, “none is close to joining the EU”.

He said: “They must all overcome substantial hurdles to meet the Copenhagen criteria, which define the EU’s standards on strong democratic institutions, a functioning market economy and the ability to take on the obligations of membership.”

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Following Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was also told it could become a member of the bloc, though officials have warned this could take some time.

French President Emmanuel Macron stressed in May that this could take “several decades”.

He said: “We all know perfectly well that the process to allow [Ukraine] to join would take several years indeed, probably several decades.

“That is the truth, unless we decide to lower the standards for accession. And rethink the unity of our Europe.”

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