How can the EU remain capable of acting even if it has over 30 members in the future? That is the big question that a group of French and German experts has been asking itself over the part months. The group’s report, “Sailing on High Seas – Reforming and Enlarging the EU for the 21stCentury”, which was presented today, suggests various EU reforms, including reforms of the instruments to safeguard the rule of law and of the EU enlargement process. The report provides major input for the current European debate on how the EU can be made fit for enlargement.
Minister of State Anna Lührmann gave the following statement at the presentation of the report today (19 September 2023):
The European Union must prepare for enlargement. We need to carry out the necessary internal reforms in the EU during the next legislative term. The EU must improve its ability to act, particularly with a view to the accession of new members. The report provides major input for this. It contains reform proposals that are both ambitious and pragmatic. Some of these proposals, such as expanding majority voting in foreign policy, can be carried out without amending the EU treaties. The report rightfully underlines that we also need to do more to protect the rule of law. EU enlargement and EU reforms must go hand in hand.
The working group’s report
In January 2023, Minister of State for Europe and Climate Anna Lührmann and her French counterpart Laurence Boone tasked 12 experts with writing a report. The idea was expressly not to produce an official governmental position paper, but to provide ideas for the debate and to lend momentum. The result is an independent report by a working group of French and German experts, but who also included input from various Member States and candidate States.
The further reform process
The report and further discussion among the Member States is one of the many milestones on the EU’s reform path. The report helps to firm up the ideas and to make progress on them, such as how majority voting can be expanded in the EU. Strengthening the rule of law in the EU is an important issue for the German Government and also plays a major role in the group’s report. The reform debate has started in the EU. Further milestones include the planned discussion on reform and enlargement by the European Council, also in light of the European Commission’s annual progress report on enlargement, which is expected in autumn.
The 12 members of the working group are as follows: Daniela Schwarzer (Bertelsmann Stiftung) and Olivier Costa (CNRS CEVIPOF) as rapporteurs and Pervenche Berès (Fondation Jean-Jaurès), Gilles Gressani (Group of Geopolitical Studies/GEG), Gaëlle Marti (Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University), Franz Mayer (Bielefeld University), Thu Nguyen (Jacques Delors Centre), Nicolai von Ondarza (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik - German Institute for International and Security Affairs), Sophia Russack (Centre for European Policy Studies/CEPS), Funda Tekin (Institute for European Politics/IEP), Shahin Vallée (German Council on Foreign Relations), Christine Verger (Jacques Delors Institute).