ERSTE Foundation and European Council on Foreign Relations: Discussion on EU enlargement needs more focus and effort

"Beyond Catch-27: How to make EU enlargement work?" - High-level discussion on the latest policy brief by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)
Thursday, 7 March, 2024

“Beyond Catch-27: How to make EU enlargement work?” – High-level discussion on the policy brief by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

ERSTE Foundation: Beyond Catch-27: How to make EU enlargement work? (06.03.2024) | From left to right: Engjellushe Morina, Richard Grieveson, Boris Marte, Nikola Dimitrov, Hedvig Morvai, Vedran Dzihic, Oana Popescu-Zamfir, Piotr Buras | Foto: – Joanna Pianka

At the end of last year, the European Council took a major step towards enlargement by opening accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, granting candidate status to Georgia and making progress on the accession of the Western Balkan states, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina. Representatives from diplomacy, think tanks and institutions discussed this on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 in Vienna at the invitation of ERSTE Foundation.

Hedvig Morvai, Director of Strategy and Europe at ERSTE Foundation, welcomed a high-caliber panel of experts and around 20 guests: “The enlargement of the European Union is a geopolitical imperative and a necessity, as well as an investment in Europe’s future security and prosperity.” CEO Boris Marte emphasized: “ERSTE Foundation sees an opportunity right now to shape the debate on a resilient, democratic and united Europe constructively, with a great deal of expert knowledge and locally rooted.”

Engjellushe Morina (Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR) explained in her introduction to the discussion: “The developments of the last few months show: The fatigue is over and the political rhetoric around enlargement is positive. But there are no concrete next steps yet.Piotr Buras (Head of the Warsaw office of ECFR) emphasized one of the key recommendations from the policy brief: “Regardless of the outcome of the internal reform debate, the European Union should be prepared to offer the candidate countries prospects – participation in the single market, access to the EU’s budget and observer status in the EU institutions by 2030.” Further inputs came from the former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of North Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov, Vedran Dzihic (Senior Researcher at OIIP and Co-Director, Center of Advanced Studies Southeast Europe), Richard Grieveson (Deputy Director of WIIW) and Oana Popescu-Zamfir (Director, Global Focus Bucharest / Europe’s Future Fellow 2021/22 at IWM).

The panel also discussed the very different opinions on EU enlargement in the individual member states. In contrast to various political initiatives, the population in Austria in particular was very skeptical. There was a consensus in the discussion that Austria would benefit from EU enlargement – as in the last rounds of enlargement. However, as ECFR explains in the policy brief “Catch-27: the contradictory thinking about enlargement in the EU“, there is still a long way to go before a political consensus is reached on how enlargement should be implemented.

ERSTE Foundation: Beyond Catch-27: How to make EU enlargement work? (06.03.2024) | From left to right: Boris Marte (ERSTE Stiftung), Hedvig Morvai (ERSTE Stiftung), Engjellushe Morina (European Council on Foreign Relations), Piotr Buras (European Council on Foreign Relations) | Foto: – Joanna Pianka

Contact for inquiries

ERSTE Foundation Communication

Daniela Muehlbacher

Tel: 0664 78 00 12 48

Florian Bauer

Director Social Finance, Sustainability and Innovation
Since 2023, Florian Bauer has been responsible for social finance, sustainability and social innovation at ERSTE Foundation. Prior to this role, Florian worked in the NGO & Social Entrepreneurship sector for more than 13 years. He led the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral NGO that works to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient systems in developing countries, and was Managing Director & COO of the Impact Hub Vienna. From 2020-2023, Florian established strategic alliances with key partners and helped to create innovative semantic technology solutions at Semantic Web Company (SWC), a leading IT company in semantic AI solutions.