It’s not just economics: the new European Commission could already be affected by the first issues from another delicate side – the enlargement of the Union. During the presentation of his priorities in July, before the election, Jean-Claude Jucker was crystal clear: “There won’t be any enlargement during the next five years,” only “current negotiations” will proceed, in particular with western Balkans “which need a European perspective,” but no dice for the others. Juncker’s position hasn’t changed at all, as his staff confirmed. And it is shared by other members of the Commission, but several negotiations are in place, at various levels, with numerous countries. Turkey included. What would be their fate?
This is the first real dossier on which the new Commission is experiencing issues. A “long negotiation” was necessary to convince Juncker to list the word ‘enlargement’ in the name of one of the portfolios, revealed qualified sources in Brussels who took part to the formation of the new Commission, given that he thought it could be written off. At the end, the current formula was accepted: “Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations” – currently, Johannes Hahn.
Beyond terminology, the fact is that the Commission President-elect, explained some sources, thinks the only negotiations to proceed will be those with the States already labelled as Candidate Member, with open negotiations. No possibility instead for those with blocked negotiations, or with capitals which started the process but haven’t received the ‘Candidate’ status yet, or again with those which haven’t started anything yet but, let’s say, in three years should have the will of opening a dialogue. This is something on which other Commissioners could be ready to open a battle – including, or so it seems, the future High Representative of the Union, Federica Mogherini. The position expressed by Juncker’s team “hasn’t been written anywhere” said peremptorily Italian sources in Brussels.
The main issue deals with Turkey: Ankara has been a ‘Candidate’ for years, but negotiations, which have always been difficult, are now suspended. The European People’s Party in its programmatic document for this term reads that “a full membership (of Turkey) is no longer among our objects.” Juncker, part of the EPP, couldn’t do anything but adapt to this, hence his will is stopping the negotiation and even the possibility or having the negotiations restarted. Then other countries, such as FYROM, which is ‘candidate’ but hasn’t any open negotiation, and then Albania, Serbia, Montenegro have the status of ‘candidate’ and are starting up the negotiations. At last, Kosovo and Bosnia, to which the European Union promised a path towards the integration – but which are far away from getting the ‘candidate’ status.
The shared thought is that no new name should be added to this list, but the challenge concerns which of those seven countries will be allowed to proceed with their negotiations. Sure thing is, and the Italian position in explanatory, it cannot be the EU to shut the door to anyone willing to enter. It would be a historical error. One thing is saying there won’t be new enlargements in the next five years (and actually the necessary technical times cannot allow this, at least until a possible ‘Scotland case’), another one is that the negotiations with countries willing to join in the future are impossible. This would be a real damage for the Union.