António Costa in Valletta yesterday. Image: Lusa
António Costa in Valletta yesterday. Image: Lusa

Portugal’s PM changes tune over welcoming Ukraine into Europe

Admits “bloc must be in position for enlargement” from 27 Member States to “more than 30”

After all his warnings that Ukraine had a long wait before joining the EU, ‘the process takes a long time’, Portugal’s prime minister António Costa has changed his tune, almost certainly because it was not reciprocated by the European hierarchy.

He told journalists on the sidelines of yesterday’s MED summit of Europe’s southern countries: “We need to adjust both our institutional and budgetary architecture to a Europe that will no longer be 27 and will certainly be a Europe with more than 30 participants in the coming years”.

In other words, ‘reforms will have to be made’, writes Lusa, putting its own spin on the PM’s explanation that the rules of European institutions will have to be “adapted”.

“It’s not enough to check that others fulfill the accession criteria, it’s essential that we put ourselves in a position to successfully welcome all those we have invited to join the EU,” Mr Costa went on.

Friday’s summit, held in Valletta, Malta, included heads of government and state from Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta, Italy, Slovenia, and was also aimed to prepare for the informal summit in Granada, which will take place next Friday as part of Spain’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

Spain was also meant to have taken part in the event, but has been unable to do so “due to the internal political crisis”, adds Lusa (which actually sees it without a government).

The Granada summit is expected to continue with the issue of enlargement, particularly as there are “several calls to open formal negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova by the end of this year, a process for which the agreement of all EU member states is required”.

This is not going to be a smooth ride: Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán has already intimated that his country won’t be among supporters.

Lusa recalls that EU member states adopted the historic decision of granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova last year, thus tagging both countries on to what is already a large group on the waiting list to join the European bloc – some of which have endured years without progress in their hopes for adhesion.

The full list of aspirant EU members now includes Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, North Macedonia, Albania, Ukraine, Moldova and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

As Lusa explains, enlargement is the process by which states join the EU after fulfilling political and economic requirements.

“Any European state that respects the EU’s democratic values and is committed to promoting them can apply to join the EU, but in order to do so it must undergo a process of formal negotiations (which can only be approved unanimously by the current member states), followed by the implementation of the necessary judicial, administrative and economic reforms.

“The Council, in its General Affairs configuration, establishes and supervises the EU enlargement process and the accession negotiations, operating on a unanimous basis”.

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