The Parliament's latest print issue is out

The latest edition of The Parliament is now available to read in print and by PDF online. This month's magazine focuses on the EU's policy around enlargement, which has taken on a new urgency amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

It’s been more than 10 years since the European Union added a new member. 

Croatia was the last country to join, in 2013. And just three years later, the United Kingdom voted to withdraw from the bloc, shaking the very foundations of the European project. At the same time, the union’s values and cohesion have been increasingly tested by strengthening populist currents – both at home and across the Atlantic – along with an influx of migrants and refugees. 

As a result, enlargement receded as an EU priority over much of the past decade, with leaders focused instead on keeping the 27-member bloc intact. 

But all that changed in February 2022, when Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The Russian war of aggression has shattered European illusions of a lasting peace on the Continent in the decades following the cold war – forcing Europe to contend with a security threat not seen in nearly 80 years. 

But, amid the tragedy of war, enlargement has re-emerged as a vital route for strengthening the EU’s foreign and security policy. As Michael Leigh, a former director general at the European Commission, tells The Parliament: enlargement is now being used as “a geopolitical tool” by an EU that is navigating a host of international threats, including right on its doorstep. 

In addition to expediting the application process for Ukraine to become a candidate country, the EU has doubled down on advancing the accession process for countries like Montenegro through the Commission’s new Growth Plan for the Western Balkans. 

Enlargement is a geopolitical necessity.

But Brussels will need to go beyond communiques and strategy documents to demonstrate its commitment to welcoming new members into the fold. “A credible enlargement policy should end the strategic ambiguity towards the ‘grey zones’ that left Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in no-man’s land, behind a de facto locked EU door, and the countries of the Western Balkans in the EU’s ‘waiting room’ for about two decades,” argue Amanda Paul and Svitlana Taran of the European Policy Centre. 

Even so, obstacles remain – not least among them that Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia all have disputed territories claimed by Russia. The question is whether the strategic urgency of enlargement will outweigh concerns over sovereignty clashes and other outstanding issues. 

“These grey areas along the EU’s borders must disappear,” David McAllister, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, writes in these pages. “Enlargement is a geopolitical necessity.” 

— Christopher Alessi, Editor-in-Chief