While European integration is ongoing, our continent still remains politically divided, with many countries remaining outside of the EU. There hasn’t been an EU enlargement since Croatia joined the Union in 2013, despite the progress made by several candidate and potential candidate countries to meet the membership criteria. This creates a divide between those who can enjoy the freedoms and opportunities the Union provides and those who are dependent on only limited forms of integration. While some countries put great effort into meeting the accession criteria, their EU integration has been arbitrarily blocked by individual member states, often based on narrowly-defined national interests or domestic pressure from nationalistic groups.
The EU must remain an open project, commiting to a continuous enlargement process based on transparent accession criteria, including the respect for the Union’s fundamental values. Following the evaluation of these criteria made by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council should be able to co-decide on the accession of new member states based on qualified majority voting. No single member state should be able to block the accession of a candidate country.
The integration of the Western Balkan countries should be prioritised to ensure peace and stability in the region. Subsequently, other European countries meeting the accession criteria should be invited to join the Union in order to unite the continent.