Von der Leyen: Benefits of EU enlargement should be explained to Europeans

NEWS 28.09.202312:34 0 komentara
Ursula von der Leyen (REUTERS/Johanna Geron)

It is important to explain to EU citizens that enlargement of the European Union is in its interest considering a more dangerous and more unpredictable geopolitical environment, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Split on Thursday. Pročitaj više

“Russia's war against Ukraine has proven that there is a strong need for Europe to adapt to a more dangerous and volatile geostrategic and geopolitical environment,” von der Leyen said at a joint press conference with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and EPP President Manfred Weber, which they held within the European People's Party's Study Days.

“It is very important that we explain to our member states and to our EU citizens that in the new geostrategic environment an enlargement that is merit-based is strengthening us and is necessary and beneficial for us,” she said.

Speaking of Croatia, the Commission president said: “The past enlargement has been a great success for countries such as Croatia, and a great benefit for the European Union. We must replicate this with the current candidate countries. Of course, it is a merit-based process. But this requires simultaneously structural reforms in the candidate countries and a parallel track of reform on the side of the European Union.”

She said that the EU has stepped up its efforts towards a Defence Union and strengthened its ties with NATO allies and other trusted partners.

The EU has supported Ukraine militarily and financially with €81 billion by now. Russia's blackmail on energy has failed because Europe has got rid of its dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and energy prices have come back down to pre-war levels. It is key for the EU to work on developing clean technologies to increase its independence and competitiveness and create jobs, von der Leyen said.

EU will need to improve its asylum and migration system

In the time ahead, the EU will need to improve its asylum and migration system, as shown by the latest events in Lampedusa, where tens of thousands of migrants arrive. The Commission president visited this Italian island near the African coast with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in mid-September.

“Our citizens, rightly so, expect that it is Europe that will decide who comes to us and under what circumstances, and not the traffickers and smugglers,” von der Leyen said.

Weber said that a humanitarian approach should be taken on this issue to help those in need in the same way Ukrainian refugees in Europe are being helped.

Plenkovic spoke of the main challenges faced by all European countries today, namely security, resulting from the two-year COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and the competitiveness of the European economy.

“We will remain united and support Ukraine as long as we manage to avoid a social fracture and maintain social peace in our countries,” the Croatian prime minister said.

On the subject of EU enlargement, he said that Croatia has “a lot of expertise and knowledge of trends” in its southeastern neighbourhood.

“We think all our neighbours should speed up their reform processes in order to be better prepared to enter the next phases of the accession process,” Plenkovic said, adding that this also applies to the efforts of Ukraine and Moldova.

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