European Western Balkans
European Integration

[EWB Interview] Kleine-Brockoff: EU Enlargement not a priority for Germany

Thomas Kleine-Brockoff; Photo: Photo: The German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum

Interview with Thomas Kleine-Brockoff, Executive Director of the Berlin Office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the advisor to former President of Germany, Joachim Gauk. The interview was conducted on the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund.

European Western Balkans: How would you describe current German foreign policy concerning enlargement? Is it high on the list of priorities?

Thomas Kleine-Brockoff: No. The reason is that we are in a very uncharted territory in all of our Western foreign policy. We have a revisionist Russia, we have a Turkey that is approaching a constitutional change that makes us uncomfortable, we have countries within Europe that embrace illiberal democracy, we have Great Brittain that wants to be out in the Atlantic, we have the United States that is unsecure as a source of stability. Our sense is that German foreign policy is home alone in some way. We have very uneasy and very strange moment in which you have to reconsider the basic tenents of your security. I think that keeping Europe together is the one overwhelming goal of German foreign policy in an insecure moment in our history.

EWB: Despite all the issues Germany is facing, at least rhetorically enlargement is on the agenda. This is at least the message sent to the governments in the Western Balkans. Do you believe this message to be sincere?

TKB: If you ask me the overall question, keeping the system intact and workable is the overarching priority rather than expanding the system. That, I would say, is the broad answer to that.

EWB: Do you expect any changes after the elections in Germany this year when it comes to enlargement?

TKB: The broad question as to what the alliance system is, how to confront Putin, how to deal with Erdogan – those are the big questions. I think the enlargement question is, especially in the Western Balkans, an important question, but it has now become in a fraying international order a second order question. If we have a French election that sees a French president Le Pen, who wants to leave NATO and EU, who wants to leave the Eurozone, we are in an uncharted territory. I do not know what we would then be enlarging.

EWB: Many say that the European Union is currently giving the advantage to stability over democracy in the Western Balkans, caring more about the external threats than the level of democracy and the level of reform necessary for European integration of these states. Would you agree that this is more or less the German position?

TKB: The more unstable the overall system gets, the more system maintenance is the priority, and it is true that over time with increasing instability, stability will have precedent over transformation. That is, I think, more an analytical point than a policy point.

This article has been produced with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. The content of this article and the opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the portal European Western Balkans and in no way reflect the views and opinions of the Balkan Trust for Democracy nor the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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