Towards a multi-tiered Europe? Scholz calls for EU enlargement

Towards a multi-tiered Europe? Scholz calls for EU enlargement
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a summit in Ejsberg, Denmark in May 2022

On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for EU enlargement in the Balkan countries, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, imagining an EU consisting of "30 or 36 members."

"The fact that the EU continues to expand towards the east is an advantage for all of us," stressed Scholz during a speech on the future of Europe given in the Czech capital of Prague. The German chancellor committed himself to the enlargement of the EU towards the east, going as far as proposing "a European Union of 30 or 36 states," which is very "different from our current Union."

The move comes after Ukraine and Moldova were recently shortlisted to join the EU. Yet, EU accession is a lengthy process that can be stalled for years, such as in North Macedonia, which changed its name to placate worries in Greece, but whose accession is now blocked by Bulgaria.

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Scholz stressed that decision-making in the block is hindered by each country's veto right. "Where unanimity is required today (within the EU), the risk of a single country preventing all the others from moving forward with its veto increases with each new member state," said Scholz.

"That is why I proposed to move gradually to decision-making at the majority in the common foreign policy, but also in other areas, such as fiscal policy," explained Scholz, not hiding the fact that "this would also have consequences for Germany."

For him, "sticking to the principle of unanimity only works as long as the pressure to act is weak. But this is no longer the case in view of the changing political landscape" after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Towards a multi-tiered EU

France's President Emmanuel Macron in May floated the idea of a "European community" to Ukraine, saying it would probably take decades before the country was ready to join but nonetheless wanted a several-tiered Europe that would allow non-members to be more closely aligned with the bloc.

Scholz supported Macron's proposal for a "European community," adding that within this new forum central, common themes for the bloc, including security, energy, and connectivity, would be key points for an enlarged block.

"In this enlarged Union, the differences between the Member States will increase in terms of political interests, economic power or social systems,” he explained. “Ukraine is not Luxembourg. And Portugal does not take the same view of the challenges of the world as North Macedonia."

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