European Western Balkans

Johanna Deimel: The new Enlargement Commissioner should come from a country like Sweden

Oliver Varhelyi presents the enlargement methodology proposal; Photo: European Union

Johanna Deimel, an independent German analyst for Western Balkans and Southeast Europe, states for European Western Balkans that the European Commission’s enlargement portfolio “under no circumstances” should be taken over by a country which has itself become a spoiler within the EU due to violations of EU values and standards, violations of the rule of law and blockades in the course of the EU-Ukraine policy, such as Hungary. Deimel underlines that “Sweden would be a good candidate here”.

The Brussels-based portal Euractiv, citing unnamed diplomats in Brussels and EU member states, has announced that the future Commissioner for Enlargement could also be a Vice President of the European Commission, given the complexity and scope of work that awaits the new Commissioner.  

Several EU member states including Austria, Sweden, and Greece – have been eying the file for their candidate, Euractiv reports.

Johanna Deimel agrees that the task is enormously challenging for the new EU Commissioner.

Johanna Deimel; Photo: BCBP

“It involves, among other things, reforms in the EU accession process, modalities for different levels of membership, qualified majorities and the exclusion of bilateral blockades. It is essential that this portfolio is taken over by a country that has no bias, that is politically and diplomatically experienced and that clearly stands up for European values. Sweden would be a good candidate here”, Deimel says.

Johanna Deimel claims that “under no circumstances should this key portfolio for the future be taken over by an EU member state that does not recognize Kosovo (EU-5), that is involved in bilateral disputes (Greece, Bulgaria) or that has itself become a spoiler within the EU due to violations of EU values and standards, violations of the rule of law and blockades in the course of the EU-Ukraine policy (Hungary)”.

Asked to assess the work done by the EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, who has been in charge for neighbourhood and enlargement since 2019, Deimel states that he “was an administrator of non-enlargement, and this also benefited some other EU member states, because there was no ambition at all in large parts of the EU to make concrete progress with enlargement”.

“The forthcoming Hungarian European Council Presidency will be a challenge in itself, which must be overcome as unscathed as possible after the elections to the European Parliament and the expected strengthening of far-right forces. It is enough that Viktor Orbán is seen as a role model for many rulers in the Western Balkans, and he wants to anchor his illiberal democracy there too. Now, however, since the war in Ukraine, concrete steps towards EU enlargement with Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans – not only but especially – have become a geopolitical and security policy imperative”, Deimel concludes.

Deimel says that the future of EU enlargement is of eminent importance for the EU itself and for the entire European region.

“It is about security, cohesion and resilience against all those forces that want to bring about the end of the EU and European unity”, Deimel states, commenting on the claims made by Euractiv that the enlargement portfolio would be one of the most wanted “top jobs” in the new European Commission.

Deimel points out that the EU candidate status was granted to Ukraine, Moldova and BiH, and that the prospect of the EU accession has been promising to the countries of the Western Balkans since 2003.

“If there is no real tangible progress in EU rapprochement over the next few years, we will not only lose the last remnants of credibility, but also risk a return to nationalism and an increase in authoritarian structures, and we will open the door even wider to Russia and China”, Johanna Deimel stresses, asked in which way the change at the top position in the EU enlargement portfolio will affect the candidate countries, including Serbia.




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