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Charles Michel: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reinvigorates EU’s enlargement strategy

Russia’s Ukraine invasion boosts EU expansion case, chairman says, aiming for reforms by 2030 to admit new members like Ukraine, citing historical call for reuniting continent.
Charles Michel
President of the European Council Charles Michel in Kyiv on 21 November 2023. Credit: Presidential Office
Charles Michel: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reinvigorates EU’s enlargement strategy

Russia’s war in Ukraine has given fresh impetus to the EU’s drive to admit more countries, the bloc’s chairman said on 29 April, according to Reuters. Speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the EU’s “Big Bang” enlargement in 2004 on May 1, which added 10 new members, mostly ex-Soviet nations, European Council President Charles Michel said the current conflict has presented “a call of history” to reunite the continent again.

Michel expressed hope that the 27-nation EU and prospective new members like Ukraine could complete the reforms necessary for admission by 2030. He cited the 2004 enlargement countries’ economic success, with their combined GDP per capita rising from around half the EU average then to 80% currently.

Six Balkan countries, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova are among the applicants seeking to join today’s EU of 450 million people. Ukraine, with around 40 million people and a large agricultural sector, would be by far the largest prospective new member.

The EU chairman acknowledged the challenge of potentially integrating Ukraine but argued that failing to pursue further enlargement would be “a terrible, irresponsible mistake,” as the integration will boost the EU’s global influence alongside major powers like China and the US.

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