In June Ukraine and Moldova got EU candidate status. Hailed as a historic achievement, in practice the accession process is still stuck. Several member states insist that further steps towards enlargement have to be preceeded by internal reforms, in particular of the EU’s decision making structures. This will take many years. Meanwhile, the reluctance of these EU member states has blocked the accession process. This can be vividly observed in the Western Balkans, where reforms have stalled for years and where the frontrunners are hardly better prepared than some of the countries that have not even started accession negotiations yet. The reluctance of EU member states and the failings of the accession process are reinforcing each other and have created a vicious circle. If nothing changes, Ukraine and Moldova are set to join the Balkan club of disillusionment.
IWM Europe’s Futures Fellows Heather Grabbe and Kristof Bender explored in a conversation with IWM Permanent Fellow Ivan Vejvoda how this vicious cycle, harmful for the EU and wanna-be-members alike, can be broken.
Heather Grabbe, political scientist ranked highly among “the women who shape Brussels” by Politico. She has written recently on how climate change and technology are affecting the quality of democracy and economic and social justice. She was the director of the Open Society European Policy Institute from 2009 to 2022, and before that a senior advisor to then European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn.
Kristof Bender is the Deputy Chairman of the European Stability Initiative (ESI). Educated in sociology in Vienna and Paris, he has worked in Southeast Europe in various capacities since 1997. Kristof sits on the board of the Kosovo Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) and is a jury member of the Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence run by BIRN. He is a 2022/23 Europe’s Futures Fellow of IWM and ERSTE Foundation.
Ivan Vejvoda is IWM Permanent Fellow and head of Europe’s Futures project.
Europe’s Futures – Ideas for Action is IWM’s strategic partnership initiative with the ERSTE Foundation aiming to understand and address challenges posed to Europe and the European Union by the eroding of democracy, rule of law deficiencies, migratory pressures or climate change. Our fifth group of Europe’s Futures Fellows comprises this year eight prominent experts who will outline their work in three public discussions throughout the month of September.
A recording of the livestream is be available below.