EU enlargement by 2030 is doable, but only if the candidates and the bloc itself “redouble their efforts”, Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi told EURACTIV, adding that the European Commission plans to make “substantial proposals” in October.
“The question has always been: Do we want to do it? And it is the first time I hear from the European Council that they want to do it – it is a welcome development,” Várhelyi told EURACTIV on the sidelines of an informal meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Toledo, Spain.
His comments came after European Council President Charles Michel earlier this week suggested that Western Balkan and other EU candidate countries as well as the EU should be ready for enlargement by 2030.
Asked whether Michel’s 2030 target would be feasible, Várhelyi said “everything is feasible what we as the EU want to do”, but stressed we should not insist on a specific timeline.
“I don’t think it is a question of dates. It is a question of [political] will and a question of delivery. Delivery on the part of the EU, but also delivery on the part of our partner countries in the Western Balkans or the other three candidate countries [Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia],” the EU’s enlargement boss said.
“2030 is certainly doable, but for this to happen it means that all of us – all of the EU institutions, all member states, and all candidate countries – will have to redouble their efforts to get there,“ he said.
According to the EU’s enlargement boss, this would “also mean we [the EU] have to speed up their reform efforts.”
Várhelyi announced that in October, when the European Commission is expected to present its annual progress reports for all countries in the bloc’s accession process, the EU executive will come out with “substantial proposals”.
“We are ready to come forward even with bold proposals – new ones – and with new ideas,” Várhelyi said.
According to Várhelyi, the plans would primarily include a ‘Growth Plan’, already floated by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in May, with which the EU seeks to increase investment in the Western Balkans, also to ease the economic impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“[This plan] will accelerate not only the institutional but also the real integration of those countries into the EU,“ Várhelyi said.