Commissioner Oliver Várhelyi said in his press statement at the informal meeting of General Affairs Ministers in Murcia: “For the EU leaders, the enlargement is among the three top priorities that the value of EU membership has never been higher than now.”
Commissioner Várhelyi highlighted that three countries (Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova), in response to Russia’s aggression, immediately demonstrated a “reflexive preference” for EU membership as the best guarantee for their long-term peace, stability, and prosperity. He said, “We are not only drawing the conclusions that we have to make enlargement happen, but we are now swinging to action.”
Commissioner Várhelyi reiterated that enlargement remains a merit-based process, with candidate countries required to meet established criteria, known since the Copenhagen criteria, to gain credibility for membership.
He said that the EU will present the new enlargement package “in a couple of weeks,” which will concern not only the Western Balkans but also “candidate countries or countries with a European perspective.” The latter category includes Georgia and Kosovo*.
Várhelyi emphasized that the new package aims to “facilitate accelerated integration” and will be based on four key pillars:
- Creating incentives for socioeconomic reforms to enhance growth;
- The gradual integration of these countries in the single market and the extension of four freedoms ahead of accession.
- Strengthening the EU work on the reforms on the rule of law and democracy, which is based on the understanding that “these fundamentals are at the core of the enlargement process.”
- Providing the necessary tools to close the economic and social gap well before accession.
Asked about the date of potential accession, Commissioner Várhelyi emphasized that the focus is on preparing the necessary tools for enlargement. Mentioning the statement of the President of the European Council to be prepared to admit new members to the EU by 2030, the Commissioner said: “The real question is, are the candidate countries going to be ready by 2030?”