In a significant address to the European Parliament this morning, Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, revealed her ambitious plan to “complete” the European Union through a comprehensive enlargement strategy. This historic announcement comes as the EU looks to strengthen its unity and extend its influence on the world stage.
A Vision for EU Completion
During her State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech, Von der Leyen articulated her vision for a fully integrated and expanded European Union. She stated, “History is now calling us to work on completing our union.” The president emphasized the importance of unity in a world where some seek to divide countries one by one. She stressed, “It is obviously in our best interests to consummate our relationship in a society where size and weight are important.”
Von der Leyen underlined the broader significance of this expansion, explaining, “But beyond the politics and geopolitics of it, we need to picture what is at stake.” She outlined a vision for a “union complete with over 500 million people living in a free, democratic, and prosperous union.” This vision also includes “young people who can live, study, and work in complete freedom” and “vibrant democracies” within the union.
The Road Ahead
This marks President Von der Leyen’s final SOTEU address during her first term in office, with the 2024 European Parliament elections on the horizon. However, it remains uncertain whether she will seek re-election.
The EU has long been eyeing geographical expansion, with eight recognized candidates for membership: Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The push for enlargement has gained momentum, with Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, advocating for swift action. Speaking at a foreign ministers’ meeting in Spain earlier this month, Borrell emphasized the urgency of Ukraine and the Western Balkans gaining EU member status.
“Our conversations have been dominated by the topic of expansion.,” Borrell said, adding, “Ukrainian membership in the EU is required. also the Western Balkans. Quickly.”
As the EU charts its path towards expansion, it faces a pivotal moment in its history, with the potential to shape the geopolitical landscape for generations to come.