The foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has called on the bloc to prepare for a future enlargement that could involve up to 10 new members, including Ukraine and the Western Balkan countries.
Borrell made the statement on Thursday, after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Toledo, Spain, where they discussed the situation in Ukraine and the bloc’s response to Russia’s aggression.
Borrell said that the EU should set a “time target” for the next enlargement, which he suggested could be by 2030. He said that this would show that the EU is “serious” and would “mobilize our energies and the energies of the candidate countries”.
He did not name any of the potential new members, except for Ukraine, which he said has a “clear European perspective”. He also mentioned the six Western Balkan states — Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — which are at different stages of the accession process.
Borrell said that the EU should also reform itself before the next enlargement, to ensure that it is “functioning well” and “efficient”. He said that the bloc’s leaders would discuss “the EU’s capacity to absorb new members” at an upcoming summit in Granada, Spain, in October.
Borrell’s remarks come amid the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which escalated in January 2023 when Russia launched a full-scale offensive against Ukraine, capturing several strategic cities and towns.
The EU has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia and its allies for their role in the invasion of Ukraine, which began in 2014 and has claimed over 14,000 lives. The bloc has also provided more than €450 million in military aid to Ukraine since 2021, as well as €15 billion in financial assistance since 2014.
However, some EU leaders and officials have expressed frustration with the slow pace and limited scope of the bloc’s actions, especially after Russia’s latest aggression. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly called on the EU to do more for his country, such as granting it a clear perspective of membership, providing more military equipment and training, and imposing tougher sanctions on Russia.
On Thursday, Zelenskiy said in a video statement that “the European Union should do more, it must do more for us, for Ukraine”.
“The decisions of politicians must coincide with the mood of their people,” he added.