EU enlargement in the wake of the Ukraine war: growing concerns and tensions

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions have spurred European Union leaders to accelerate their plans for expanding the Union’s membership. However, the heads of the EU face numerous challenges in fulfilling this ambition, particularly amidst heightened security concerns stemming from the Ukraine conflict. This article delves into the specific security concerns in the European Union due to the Ukraine conflict while also exploring the EU’s perspective on the expansion of its membership.


The possibility of expanding the European Union shortly?

The European Union’s expansion plan is back in the spotlight in Brussels negotiations, reigniting concerns about potential repercussions for the Union itself. Media sources indicate ongoing efforts to include eight new members within the 27-nation European Union. This push for Enlargement marks the Union’s first expansion since Croatia’s accession in 2013. Past discussions of Turkey’s accession halted in 2011 due to then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s resolute rejection, creating a barrier to the European Union’s expansion.

The beginning of challenges and tensions with the expansion of the European Union

The significant and momentous endeavour to broaden the European Union is not without its risks. The potential addition of new members, including Ukraine, renowned for its robust agricultural sector, will pose numerous challenges. This scenario could trigger prolonged periods of tension among the existing members of the European Union as extensive reforms are expected to accompany the enlargement process.

The European Union’s point of view regarding the increase of members

The current members of the European Union have different opinions regarding the expansion of its members. In this regard, Alexander Schallenberg, the Austrian Foreign Minister, said: “This is now the moment to be bold and to change our approach to enlargement — to get the six Western Balkan countries, every one of them, and Ukraine and Moldova, clearly into our family.” He added: “Enlargement is not a bureaucratic endeavour… It’s about exporting and safeguarding a certain model of the life of free, open Western democracies.”

European Union expansion gains support from key member states.

The ministers of European affairs of 27 member countries also discussed the issue of expanding the membership of the European Union in a meeting held at the end of October. Most importantly, Germany and France agree. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz proposed a greater Europe earlier this year, and there have been signs from Paris confirming this, with French European Affairs Minister Laurence Boone telling Politico that the European Union should send a “consistent message,” especially to help candidates for membership in this Union to defend them against Russian influence campaigns.

Timing for the accession of new members to the European Union

One of the important issues is the timing of the new members’ membership in the European Union. The EU Council President Charles Michel wants to accept new members’ membership by 2030. French President Emmanuel Macron supports the phased expansion of the European Union and wants countries to have access to the common market before they become full members of the European Union.

Challenges in EU enlargement

The discussion around EU enlargement is expected to create tension among European capitals as officials evaluate the eligibility of potential new candidates. Concerns regarding corruption in Ukraine add to these considerations. Additionally, restructuring internal decision-making within the EU to accommodate a significantly larger bloc has become challenging. Consequently, the Ukraine conflict raises significant and problematic security concerns within the European Union.

Membership in the European Union based on meritocracy

Only a little time has passed since Charles Michel set the membership date for the countries until 2030, when the spokesperson of the European Commission, who is responsible for evaluating the eligibility of candidate countries for membership, announced that this process should be done based on meritocracy. The European Commission is due to report on the progress of membership candidates this year, although an EU diplomat said the report is likely to be delayed, particularly due to serious reviews of Ukraine’s membership process.

Security concerns in the European Union due to the Ukraine conflict

Internal reforms in the European Union due to the expansion of this bloc include fundamental changes in the common agricultural policy of the Union, redesigning its long-term budget, and rewriting the decision-making process to make greater use of voting based on the so-called qualified majority in areas such as foreign policy.

The possible cover-up of corruption at the level of high-ranking officials and the policies of the agricultural sector will be one of the political and security issues that will cause tension in any future negotiations for Kyiv’s membership between the officials of this country and Brussels. Cheap Ukrainian grain could destroy EU farmers. Poland and several other members of the European Union have already closed their doors to the export of Ukrainian grain, saying that they did this to support their farmers.

The rapid process of Ukraine’s membership in the European Union

European leaders assert they must still put European Union membership up for auction or signal convergence. However, unlike previous candidates seeking EU accession, Ukraine’s credibility isn’t solely assessed by established criteria like combatting corruption, upholding the rule of law, protecting minorities, and maintaining a balanced budget. Geopolitics plays a significant role. The once-prevailing ambition of expanding Europe, a priority during the 1990s and 2000s, has been sidelined for over a decade. Germany, a nation substantially profiting from Eastern partnerships, stands almost alone in advocating for this cause.

Disturbing conventional political equations with the Ukrainian war

For many member states, the Enlargement of the European Union is more than anything synonymous with social and financial dumping, paralyzing institutions, and an anomaly on the international stage. The war in Ukraine upset the equations, and the development of the Union was on the agenda of all the Union meetings. According to von der Leyen, “Enlargement is a vital policy for the European Union. This has been my main message since the beginning of my mandate.”

Increasing pressure on the European Union to accept new members

Changing the EU’s fundamental treaties is a difficult process requiring several countries’ referendums. EU diplomats are reluctant to hold a referendum, with some arguing that reforms can be implemented under the current Lisbon Treaty. Despite the strong focus on Ukraine’s membership, candidates from smaller countries are also pushing for membership. Zelensky wants to end the crisis and join the EU in 2026, but Charles Michel talks about 2030. Prospects that seem within reach if the trend continues at an unprecedented pace.


Latest news

Related news


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here