European Western Balkans

Von der Leyen: We need to set out our vision for a successful enlargement

Ursula von der Leyen at the State of the Union 2021; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG –  In her State of Union address, Von der Leyen supported the idea of EU enlargement to at least 30 members, saying that enlargement could be a “catalyst for progress” in the bloc. “We have proven that we can be a geopolitical union and showed we can move fast when we are united. And I believe that Team Europe also works at 30+,” she said.

“The future of Ukraine, Moldova, and the Western Balkans is in our Union. We need to set out a vision for a successful enlargement”, said President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen  warned that accession to the EU was “merit-based” — in other words, contingent on far-reaching reforms in the candidate countries — and that the Commission would “always defend this principle.”

“Rule of law and respecting fundamental rights are and will always be the foundation of our Union, current and future member states.

“We now work closely with Member States to identify progress and concerns – and make recommendations for the year ahead. This has ensured accountability in front of this House and national parliaments. It has allowed for dialogue between Member States.  And it is delivering results. I believe that it can do the same for future Member States. This is why I am very happy to announce that we will open the Rule of Law Reports to those accession countries who get up to speed even faster. This will place them on an equal footing with Member States. And support them in their reform efforts”, Von der Leyen said.

She mentioned that great enlargement was “European Day of Welcomes”, adding it was a triumph of determination and hope over the burdens of the past.

“And in the 20 years since we have seen an economic success story which has improved the lives of millions. I want us to look forward to the next European Day of Welcomes and the next economic success stories. We know this is not an easy road”, the President of the European Commission concluded.

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