A priority of low salience

Nathalie Brack

Although enlargement is one of the five priorities of the Belgian Presidency, it was not much discussed during the reporting period. During its Presidency, Belgium intends to be an “honest broker”, i.e., by trying to find a consensus on enlargement and by trying to accelerate the rhythm of domestic reforms within candidate countries in matters such as democracy and peace.[1]

In general, the position of Belgium is that each candidate should respect the EU criteria and all should be treated equitably on the basis of their own merits by the EU institutions. 

The next enlargement round is expected to be composed of Croatia and Iceland. The former is considered as having made good progress in terms of implementing the acquis communautaire and the latter already respects all the political criteria, but faces an economic crisis.[2]

Concerning the other candidate countries, the Belgian Prime Minister declared that the Balkans’ future resides in the European Union and that all those countries should, in the long run, enter the EU. He argued that for Serbia it would be a long run process, especially because it first has to solve the issue of Kosovo’s recognition. He promised that Belgium would try to find a consensus by the end of 2010 to grant Montenegro the status of candidate country, but stressed that it is very important, for Montenegro but also for Albania, to implement important reforms and respect the conditions for EU adhesion. He also insisted on the importance, for the stability and integration of the Balkans, that Kosovo one day become a member of the EU, although, for the above-mentioned countries, it would take time and no timeline was set.[3]

Belgium will encourage the pursuit of the reforms in Turkey but all candidates should meet the required criteria in terms of acquis communautaire, good governance and human rights. If this proves to be impossible, a sui generis form of collaboration will be necessary.[4]

Finally, as far as the Eastern Partnership is concerned, Belgium stressed its importance in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Secretary of State for European Affairs, Olivier Chastel, highlighted the large potential of this partnership both for the European Union and the partner countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), and declared that Belgium is ready to envisage offering help or expertise in specific domains in order to ensure a successful implementation of the Eastern Partnership.[5]

[1] Report on the priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives, 17 March 2010, doc. n° 4-1606/6 (Sénat).

[2] De Morgen, 24 February 2010, available at: www.demorgen.be (last access: 8 May 2010).

[3] De Standaard, 17 February 2010, available at: www.standaard.be (last access: 6 May 2010); De Morgen, 21 December 2009; De Morgen, 16 February 2010; De Morgen, 9 March 2010, all available at: www.demorgen.be (last access: 8 May 2010).

[4] Report on the priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency, Senate and House of Representatives, 17 March 2010, doc. n° 4-1606/6 (Sénat); De Morgen, 21 December 2009, available at: www.demorgen.be (last access: 8 May 2010).

[5] Olivier Chastel réaffirme la position de la Belgique à propos du partenariat oriental, press release, 2 March 2010, available at: http://diplomatie.belgium.be (last access: 20 May 2010).