European Western Balkans

Ministers of EU and candidate countries discuss rule of law within the enlargement process

Family photo of the informal GAC meeting; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS – In today’s informal meeting of the General Affairs Council of the EU, 37 ministers of the member states and the candidate countries discussed the rule of law within the enlargement process.

This was followed by discussions on upholding the rule of law in the Union of the future and the necessary reforms to strengthen the Union’s capacity to act.

The meeting was hosted by the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belgium stated that this format “offered a glimpse of what it would be to discuss among 37 Member States”.

“The war in Ukraine has given new momentum to the discussions on enlargement. In the Granada Declaration last October, the European Council clearly stated that the enlargement is a geostrategic investment in peace, security, stability and prosperity”, Lahbib said in the press conference following the meeting.

She added that the Grenada Declaration also clearly set the markers and that it was all about reform.

“This is where the rule of law comes in, it was the central topic of this morning’s discussions, because, above all, the EU is a Union of values, it is not only a cash machine, it is not a transactional organisation”, Lahbib said.

She added, however, that the reform within the EU itself is also needed.

“The EU needs to be able to make decisions more quickly and with a lot more assuredness and that is why we need to rationalise decision-making processes so that we can resolve the problem of vetoes which can at times be overused”, Lahbib said.

Roundtable discussion; Photo: European Union

In the press conference, Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-president for Values and Transparency, said that, twenty years ago, it was a brave decision to let ten new members join the EU and that now the Union is ahead of a similar decision

“We discussed the parameters of the rule of law, why the EU is so demanding in these areas and within the member states, whether the toolbox is strong enough, whether we need to do more, whether something is missing and what will be the messages for the next Commission”, Jourová said.

In her press remarks ahead of the meeting, Minister of State for Europe and Climate at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany Anna Lührmann reminded that the leaders of the EU will adopt a roadmap on reforms in June and this meeting would serve as an opportunity to consult on it.

She said she would propose several ways in which the European Union instruments for the protection of the rule of law can be made more efficient.

Among the proposals, Lührmann mentioned a stronger connection between the distribution of financial resources and the rule of law, more efficient use of Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union and early involvement of the candidate countries in the rule of law dialogue, which includes the annual rule of law reports.

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