As Europe’s leaders meet, some fear for EU membership hopes

Oct 4, 2022, 12:46 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2022, 12:50 am
FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, shakes hands with Albanian Prime ...

FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, shakes hands with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, North Macedonia's Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski and Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

              FILE - European Parliament members meet in a plenary session on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)
            
              FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, is welcomed by European Council President Charles Michel prior to a meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Monday, March 9, 2020. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
            
              FILE - Visitors walk by a replica of the Brandenberg Gate and the Berlin wall at Mini-Europe in Brussels, Tuesday May 11, 2004. With the entrance of ten new members to the EU on May 1, 2004, Mini-Europe faced having to expand as well. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
            
              FILE - Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala, right, welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on his visit to Prague, Czech Republic, Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
            
              FILE - A worker on a lift adjusts the EU flags in front of EU headquarters in Brussels, June 23, 2016. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
            
              FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, June 23, 2022. Leaders from around Europe are converging on the Czech capital Prague to launch a new “European Political Community.” The aim, the European Union says, is to boost security and economic prosperity across the continent. But critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on EU enlargement, by creating a waiting room for want-to-be members. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File)
            
              FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, during a group photo at an Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File)
            
              FILE Blue balloons with the slogan "Europa (Europe)" fly during an EU event in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, one day before the enlargement of the European Union on Friday, April 30, 2004. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/ Jan Bauer, File)
            
              FILE - French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, June 24, 2022. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File)
            
              FILE - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, shakes hands with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, North Macedonia's Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski and Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala prior to a meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, July 19, 2022. Leaders from more than 40 countries will gather Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Prague, to launch a "European Political Community" aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity across the continent, but critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Leaders from more than 40 countries meeting in the Czech capital Thursday are set to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and prosperity across the continent. But critics claim the new forum is an attempt to put the brakes on European Union enlargement.

The Prague meeting is the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron and is backed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. It’s taking place with Russia’s war on Ukraine in its eighth month and as pressure builds to allow Ukraine to join the 27-nation EU.

“The war in Ukraine and the legitimate aspiration of its people, just like that of Moldova and Georgia, to join the European Union, encourages us to rethink our geography and the organization of our continent,” Macron said in May in a speech outlining his idea.

But even with the outpouring of support for Ukraine — in the form of weapons so it can fight back, or shelter for people fleeing — Macron said, “we all know perfectly well that the process which would allow them to join, would in reality take several years, and most likely several decades.”

What is needed, Macron said, is “a new space for political and security cooperation, cooperation in the energy sector, in transport, investments, infrastructures, the free movement of persons and in particular of our youth.”

His plan — which would involve 44 countries, including existing EU members, aspiring partners in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, as well as Britain and Turkey — mirrors a proposal by former president Francois Mitterrand to unite Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The inaugural European Political Community summit at Prague Castle will kick off with an opening ceremony, followed by a series of meetings where leaders will discuss the key challenges Europe faces; security, energy, climate, the dire economic situation, and migration.

No EU money or programs are on offer, and no formal declaration will be issued after the meeting.

The aim, should this summit go well, would be for leaders to gather once or twice a year. The forum, an EU official involved in preparations said, “does not replace existing organizations, structures or processes and does not aim to create new ones at this stage.”

However, Macron’s speech, and remarks by Scholz in August, have raised concerns that the European Political Community might become a “second-class ticket” to joining the EU, given the almost glacial pace of membership talks in recent years.

Several Balkan countries have been waiting around two decades to join — Turkey even longer — and progress has been held up by objections from single EU member countries, most recently Greece and then Bulgaria in the cases of hopefuls Albania and North Macedonia.

“Macron’s specification that ‘we may not all live in the same house, but we share the same street’ feeds skepticism that these structures could relegate the Balkans and other EU hopefuls to the waiting room indefinitely,” said Marta Mucznik, from the European Policy Centre think tank.

“If member states stopped hijacking enlargement for reasons that have more to do with their domestic politics than the process as such, then the EU would be one step closer to finding the remedy to the current deadlock,” she wrote in an analysis of the plan.

But in a speech in Prague in August, Scholz insisted that the new grouping “is not an alternative to the upcoming process of EU enlargement. After all, we have given our accession candidates our word … and these words must be followed by deeds at long last.”

That said, he suggested that a bloc with 30 members or more could become unwieldy and he underlined that “we must also make the EU itself fit for this major enlargement,” which would involve six Balkan countries, and possibly Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in the future. Turkey’s hopes are on hold.

Indeed, the exercise of once-relatively-rare national vetoes has become a common occurrence, notably in the case of Hungary. Each country has also insisted on having its own policy commissioner in the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, which proposes laws and ensures they’re respected.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament — the bloc’s only democratically elected institution — has also swollen to more than 750 members.

“Just letting EU enlargement proceed slowly through the existing uncertain process will turn the politically significant commitment to Ukraine, Moldova and other candidates into a discouraging obstacle course,” the Bruegel think-tank said in its analysis.

The new forum, it said, ought not to be “regarded as a substitute for EU accession, but should be designed to work as an accelerator. For countries not seeking to join the EU, it would provide an ongoing framework that sustains structured cooperation with the EU.”

Whether that message is heard and believed by the many countries hoping to join the world’s biggest trading bloc should be known by the time the summit ends on Thursday evening. The proof of its worth will probably only come once a second summit is held.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were...
Associated Press

Idaho police seek car seen near site where 4 students killed

Police are asking for help finding the occupant of a car that was seen near where four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death last month, saying that person could have "critical information" about the case.
20 hours ago
murders...
Associated Press

Appeals court upholds most Eyman campaign finance violations

A Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld most of the campaign finance violations that longtime anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman was found liable for last year.
20 hours ago
A Washington State Department of Agriculture worker displays an Asian giant hornet taken from a nes...
Associated Press

No northern giant hornets found in 2022 in Washington state

Citizen trapping of northern giant hornets in northwest Washington ended Nov. 30 without any confirmed sightings of the hornets this year, state officials said Tuesday.
20 hours ago
South Korean Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, center, speaks during a news conference at the governm...
Associated Press

South Korea widens back-to-work orders on striking truckers

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s government expanded its back-to-work orders Thursday against thousands of cargo truck drivers who are staging a nationwide walkout over freight fare issues, saying a prolonged strike could inflict “deep scars” on the country’s economy. The “work start” orders on steel and fuel truckers were inevitable because the strike […]
20 hours ago
Peter Møller, center, attorney and co-founder of the Danish Korean Rights Group, submits the docum...
Associated Press

South Korea’s truth commission to probe foreign adoptions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will investigate the cases of dozens of South Korean adoptees in Europe and the United States who suspect their origins were falsified or obscured during a child export frenzy in the mid- to late-1900s. The decision Thursday opens what could be South Korea’s most […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper watches during warm ups before an NFL football game bet...
Associated Press

Panthers owner settles tax fight over failed practice space

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina county where Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper started building and then abandoned a new practice facility has reached a settlement over $21 million in sales tax money given to the NFL team. Tepper will pay back the money, and York County agreed its dispute was totally resolved with […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
As Europe’s leaders meet, some fear for EU membership hopes