Fit for 35? Reforming the Politics and Institutions of the EU for an Enlarged Union

Författare: Schimmelfennig Frank, Mény Yves, Puntscher Riekmann Sonja, Börzel Tanja, Fabbrini Sergio, von Sydow Göran, Kreilinger Valentin

The EU is growing, again. In the near future the European Union could have as many as 35 members and will have to adapt to absorb them. SIEPS asked leading experts what the Union can or should do to be ‘Fit for 35’? (2023:2op)

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine re-wrote the geopolitical script and put enlargement firmly at the top of the EU agenda. But how should the EU prepare? Can it muddle through, as it has muddled through the crises of the last fifteen years, or are thoroughgoing reforms needed to ensure that as the EU grows, it grows stronger?

At the informal European Council meeting in Granada in October EU leaders will start to set the EU’s strategy, and decisions made in the coming months will be formative for the future of the EU. SIEPS has therefore invited five pre-eminent scholars of European integration to consider the options.

  • Frank Schimmelfennig (Professor of European Politics at ETH Zürich) advocates for swift accession but with greater policy differentiation to give new and old members ample time to make the necessary reforms.

  • For Yves Mény (Emeritus President of the European University Institute), the EU’s existing set-up is hardly fit for 27, let alone 35. He outlines the dilemma faced by the EU and the possible solutions (federalization, minor adjustments, further differentiation) and concludes that the underlying problem is the lack of political will to overhaul the institutional framework.

  • Sonja Puntscher Riekmann (Professor emerita of Political Theory and European Politics at the University of Salzburg) argues that, ahead of enlargement, the EU needs to do the difficult work of agreeing on its purpose and its future development; treaty change always carries risk, but it would, at least, prompt such a long-overdue discussion.

  • Tanja Börzel (Professor of Political Science and Chair for European Integration at Freie Universität Berlin) considers that, while policy reform is necessary, the risks of deepening integration via treaty change are too great and doing so could weaken rather than strengthen the EU’s capacity to enlarge.

  • For Sergio Fabbrini (Professor of Political Science and International Relations at LUISS Guido Carli, Rome) only a radical overhaul will allow the successful integration of the aspiring member states: there should be not one (differentiated, strongly intergovernmental) EU, as at present, but three ‘tiers’; interlocking organizations reflecting the divergent appetites and capacities for integration.

In their concluding remarks editors Göran von Sydow (SIEPS Director) and Valentin Kreilinger (Senior Researcher in Political Science, SIEPS) consider the plausibility of the contributors’ proposals and the pitfalls that reforms – deep or shallow, ambitious or pragmatic – are likely to face.