Analysing international policy processes and Lithuania’s role in them
Review Nov 09, 2023

Upgrading EU Enlargement Methodology: Enhancing Accession Prospects for the New Eastern Candidates

Photo source: Frederic Köberl/Unsplash

The prospects for progress in the process of accession to the European Union (EU) primarily revolve around two core areas: enhancing domestic readiness within the candidate countries in the Western Balkans as well as Ukraine and Moldova, and adapting the EU’s enlargement toolbox to ensure the accession process is effective and irreversible. Nonetheless, the EU has encountered significant challenges in motivating Türkiye and 6 Western Balkan countries to undertake comprehensive reforms within and align with the policy framework encompassing 33 chapters of the EU enlargement process. Montenegro, Serbia and Türkiye are the only three countries that managed to open chapters of negotiations, while Montenegro is the only candidate state that has opened all 33 chapters, closing 3 of them provisionally.

Drawing from the accession experiences of both Türkiye and the Western Balkan states, the EU has gleaned valuable lessons that should be applied to the (pre-)accession dialogue with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. This is particularly relevant as all three Eastern Partnership countries (EaP) have been incorporated into the revised enlargement package of the EU. The circulating proposals to revise the 2020 enlargement methodology introduce new elements for consideration by EU institutions and Member States (MSs). These factors come into play as Ukraine and Moldova’s compliance with EU conditionality for the initiation of accession negotiations is under examination.

This policy paper delves into three crucial aspects of the enlargement process. First, it examines the geopolitical considerations, outlining the parameters of support for enlargement and emphasising the need for these processes to occur in the near future rather than in a distant timeline. Second, the paper provides a systematic and concise analysis of the disparities between the “Revised Enlargement Methodology” (REM) and the think-tank proposals to enhance it, including staged accession and other elements outlined in the Franco-German proposal. Through a careful analysis of the pros and cons of these initiatives, the paper aims to determine which elements best serve the accession goals of aspiring Eastern European states.

Third, the paper highlights the experiences of Türkiye and the Western Balkan states, extracting valuable lessons that can provide guidance for both the EU and the three Eastern Partnership countries: Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The policy paper concludes by presenting a comprehensive set of recommendations derived from the analysis of the REM and the proposals for its improvement. These recommendations are informed by the challenges that Türkiye and the Western Balkans are encountering during their accession processes, offering valuable insights for the new aspirants in the Eastern European region.

Associate Expert at the EESC and Research Fellow and PhD student at the Institute of Political Science at the Justus Lybig University of Giessen, Germany, researching global governance and the resilience of countries in the EU neighbourhood. He has published extensively between 2015 and 2021 on European integration, EU-Russia interaction, good governance and energy security in Eastern Europe. Mr Cenusa is also an Associate Expert at the Moldova think tank Expert-Grup, where since 2015 he has been coordinating a SIDA-funded joint project with the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels on Sakartvel, Moldova and Ukraine.