Status kandidatke za članstvo v EU je “cheap talk”, članstvo pa nič bližje

Včerajšnje razočaranje na Svetu EU, da slednji ni podprl začetka pogajanj o vstopu v EU za Severno Makedonijo in da Bosna in Hercegovina ni dobila statusa kandidatke, je nekoliko zameglilo bistveno večji problem. Ukrajina je sicer (končno) dobila status kandidatke za vstop v EU, vendar je to zgolj “piarovski moment”. Status kandidatke še nič ne pomeni, Turčija ga ima od leta 1999, Makedonija od 2005, pa nista korak bližje k začetku pogajanj o vstopu. Glede Ukrajine je problem bistveno večji, kot je denimo problem Makedonije. Ukrajina je velika država, nizko razvita in zelo kmetijska. To pa za EU predstavlja trojni problem: (1) sprememba političnih razmerij znotraj EU (Ukrajina in Poljska bi bili skupaj večji od Nemčije, prišlo bi do prenosa centra moči proti vzhodu, Nemčija in Francija bi izgubili svoj primat pri kreiranju EU politik); (2) Ukrajina bi zaradi nizke razvitosti postala velika neto prejemnica EU sredstev; (3) zaradi velike konkurenčnosti Ukrajine na področju kmetijstva bi preostali evropski kmetijski pridelovalci bili na izgubi zaradi splošnega znižanja cen in/ali zmanjšanja kmetijskih subvencij. K temu je treba prišteti še, da bi vstop Ukrajine in ostalih kandidatk zahteval reformo strukture odločanja v EU, kar širitev proti vzhodu in na Balkan zelo odmika v nedoločeno prihodnost. Spodaj je dobra analiza potencialnih težav s strani Wolfganga Munchaua.

Jaz osebno seveda podpiram vstop Ukrajine v EU, saj bi to ob politični stabilizaciji v regiji prineslo tudi večjo avtonomnost EU na področju hrane in ključnih surovin. Povečalo bi gospodarko in politično moč evropskega bloka v globalnem merilu tako napram ZDA kot Kitajske. Ampak naše pobožne želje seveda nimajo teže v čudaški evropski realpolitiki.

Beware when politicians refer to their own decisions as historic. Awarding candidacy status comes cheap. Waving blue and yellow flags also comes cheap. Tweets cost nothing.

But nothing is quite as cheap as EU candidacy status. Turkey has had it since 1999. North Macedonia has had candidacy status since 2005, Montenegro since 2008. What really matters is the start of negotiations. And from there a long road still waits ahead, paved with good intentions mostly.

The deal reached in the European Council is a classic EU fudge, high on symbolism with the purpose of allowing EU leaders to indulge in fantasies about their own historic role.

Kid yourself not. Ukraine will not be in the EU for a long time, if ever. The biggest obstacle to Ukrainian membership is probably not even Ukraine’s readiness, but the EU itself. Ukraine, a large country, would become a significant net recipient of EU funds, at the expense of other net recipients, like Poland. Under the so-called Copenhagen criteria from 1993, enlargement also goes hand in hand with reforms in the way the EU operates. Voting rights and the number of MEPs would have to change, as we reported yesterday. Voting rights are a zero sum game. This is not just about the number of raw votes in the EU’s qualified majority voting system, but also the ability of countries to form coalitions. How many small countries does it take for coalitions to form that have the power to outvote Germany and France? With the accession of so many smaller countries, we would be getting close to this point. Germany already staked a claim for more proportional representation to reduce the probability of being outvoted.

Together with Ukraine and Moldova, there are now seven countries that have candidate status, all of them in the east and the south east of Europe. Bosnia and Georgia have made applications, and Kosovo is another potential candidate.

The accession of so many countries, combined with the departure of a large western country, is shifting the balance. There is no way that France and Germany can maintain their current power in an enlarged EU, or even their informal role as agenda setters. The geographical centre of an EU that includes Ukraine would be somewhere to the east of the German border. With a population of 44m, Ukraine is larger than Poland, and just behind Spain. Ukraine and Poland together would be bigger than Germany. The total population of all candidates and applicants is close to 80m, without Turkey, with whom membership talks are frozen. If you include Turkey, the total would rise to 150m.

EU membership is a binary option. You are in or out. Norway and Switzerland have their deals, and so does the UK. But these deals have mostly not given rise to happiness. One route forward for the EU would be differentiated integration, a term we prefer to variable geometry, where the emphasis is not so much on opt-outs as opt-ins. Amid all the mutual backslapping and self-congratulation in Brussels yesterday, we heard the voice of Alexander Schallenberg, Austria’s foreign minister, who suggested that Ukraine should join the single market as a first step, as he said, to avoid disappointment. We think this is a sensible proposal, for disappointment is otherwise guaranteed.

Behind the decision to award immediate candidacy status to Ukraine was a bitter fight over the beginning of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, the two countries that have lingered in the EU’s antechamber for years. Accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania are blocked by Bulgaria, but we read in Euractiv this morning that the Bulgarian parliament could unblock its veto today in time for the Council to save itself the embarrassment of having to say no to those two countries once again.

Austria wanted the EU to grant candidacy status to Bosnia, but was promised that the Council would deal with this issue on another occasion.

Vir: Eurointelligence

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