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MEPs debate Commission’s document on pre-enlargement reforms, disagree over veto rights

European Parliament; Photo: European Union

STRASBOURG – During today’s final plenary sitting of the 2019-2024 European Parliament, the European Commission presented its Communication on pre-enlargement reforms and policy reviews which was released last month.

Most of the MEPs who joined the discussion supported the initiative to speed enlargement up, while one of the main points of disagreement was whether there should be a change of the founding Treaties of the EU to achieve a transition from unanimity to qualified majority voting.

Commission’s document was presented by Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. He said that it represents a contribution to the ongoing discussion which should lead to the endorsement, by EU leaders, of the roadmap for future work on enlargement and reforms by the summer.

“The EU must deepen as it widens, we must prepare today for the Union of tomorrow and use enlargement as a catalyst for progress”, Sinkevičius said

He added that more details will come when the Commission presents its in-depth policy reviews early next year.

The Communication looks at the implications of a larger EU in four main areas – values, policies, budget and governance.

What should EU candidates take away from Commission’s new document on pre-enlargement reforms?

During the discussion, MEP Guy Verhofstadt (Renew) was harshly critical of the Commission’s document. He said it was unrealistic that the reforms could be enacted through passerelle clauses in the current Treaties rather than Treaty changes.

“My group will not vote in the next parliament for a candidate for the President of the European Commission and for the Commission that is not putting Treaty change as an essential condition for the enlargement of the EU”, Verhofstadt said.

Tineke Strik (Greens/EFA) stressed that the three-part goal of having enlargement, being an efficient organisation and preserving the veto is not an effective combination.

“We must urgently make our house ready for more inhabitants, but also to get more decisiveness and prevent blackmail by single non-compliant member states”, Strik said.

On the other hand, Thierry Mariani from the Identity and Democracy group accused the Commission of a “hidden agenda” of abandoning the veto rights, saying that his Rassemblement National party would ask for a referendum on this in France, if it becomes a proposal.

Andrius Kubilius (EPP) said that the enlargement would make the EU more powerful geopolitically since it would allow it to affect positive changes in the broader region of Belarus and Russia.

He said that the countries of Central Europe, which are celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their EU membership, must not become an obstacle for future enlargement.

“They will need to overcome historical disagreements with their neighbours, they will need not to be afraid of the economic competition and transformation to the real democracy in the EU decision-making”, Kubilius said.

Commissioner Sinkevičius concluded the debate saying that in 2019, when this European Commission was elected, enlargement was not the issue, but the things have now changed.

“It was not on a topic the table. Now the situation has shifted and we have an opportunity, which we have to seize and speed up”, Sinkevičius said.

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