Pierre Avril (in Berlin) and Anne Rovan (in Brussels)
"As soon as possible." In Bratislava on Wednesday, Emmanuel Macron laid the groundwork for a rapid - at least as rapid as possible - entry of Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkan countries into the European Union (EU). The president is taking an important turn here. A year ago, on May 9, 2022, before the European Parliament, he stressed that Ukraine's accession to the EU would take "decades"... So dampening the hopes of Kiev, which considers that a entry into the Union - as in NATO - is vital.
Emmanuel Macron was then very cautious. As Russia continues the war and continues to increase pressure on the countries on the eastern flank of the continent, he now believes that there can be no gray areas in Europe in this context. If the wait for these countries is too long, 'I think that in fact we will give more space to all those who want to destabilize Europe within it and I think that we will wake up in a few years with a situation that will have largely deteriorated”, he admitted in Bratislava, while calling for “inventing several formats” and “clarifying the purposes of each of these formats”. For the Élysée, it is necessary to start thinking about this question of how, while the Twenty-Seven must decide at the end of the year on the opening of accession negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova.
“We want to start discussions this year and continue them next year,” Volodymyr Zelensky repeated again last week, hoping that his country will partially access the European internal market next year. As for the Moldavian power, it aims for full and complete membership by 2030. A deadline on which Emmanuel Macron was careful not to commit last week, during the second summit of the European Political Community, in Chisinau.
EU enlargement will be on the menu of a working dinner between the president and Olaf Scholz on Tuesday in Potsdam, to prepare for the president's state visit to Germany in early July. The Chancellor is, for his part, very cautious. "The conditions for membership are the same for everyone", traditionally replies Olaf Scholz, who carefully refuses to mention the slightest privilege likely to favor Ukraine over the other candidate countries. Especially since alongside the candidacy of kyiv arises the question of the accession of the Balkans. Berlin does not want the latter to bear the brunt of the new security deal generated by the war, while Paris now seems to be rallying.
The five candidate countries of the Western Balkans "have been waiting for twenty years for this promise (of membership, editor's note) to materialize", recalled Olaf Scholz at the Chisinau summit, placing particular emphasis on North Macedonia. In addition to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, recent community tensions in the Serbian enclosure of Kosovo have alarmed Berlin, which is also worried about the influx of migrants passing through the Balkan route. Like Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz wants to lead a debate on the reform of community institutions capable of supporting the process. During a speech in Prague last summer, then before the European Parliament recently, the Chancellor had notably pleaded in favor of the introduction of the qualified majority for European decision-making in matters of foreign policy and taxation. His caution with regard to the Ukrainian file should not prevent him from finding a consensus with Paris. "It's more a matter of style than substance. When the French launch into lyrical flights over Europe, the Germans are there to remind them of the fundamentals,” notes Frank Baasner, director of the Franco-German Institute in Ludwigsburg.
In fact, the Chancellor's Social Democratic Party itself pleads for an "acceleration" of the Ukrainian file. “Of course, the conditions for Ukraine to join are the same as for all other countries, but we should advance this important cause. Germany has a great responsibility in this regard,” party chairman Lars Klingbeil told RND.