Last month, the European Union signed sweeping trade and association accords with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. The deals are designed to cement economic and political ties between the EU and the three former Soviet republics, to the chagrin of Moscow which has sought to lock them into its own sphere of influence through a Russian-led Eurasian customs union. Leaders of the three countries hailed the agreements as historic steps towards their full integration into the European mainstream.
“What a great day, perhaps the most important day for my country after independence day” declared Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, after signing the agreement at a summit in Brussels. He urged EU leaders to go further and hold out the prospect of eventual membership for Ukraine, saying it would “mean the world for my country.”
As yet however, the EU’s offer of a closer partnership does not include any membership pledge.
Where do you think the future lies for these three countries on the EU’s eastern flank? Would a pledge of eventual membership bolster stability in a troubled neighbourhood? Does the Union have a moral responsibility to welcome in all European democracies – especially those like Ukraine where citizens have shed blood in support of European ideals? Or is another eastward enlargement a step too far for an EU that’s already struggling to function with 28 members?
The EU’s treaty says that any European state that meets requirements of democracy, human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms can apply to join the Union. Yet in recent years there’s clearly been a growth in “enlargement fatigue” among voters in the EU’s existing member countries. Eurosceptic parties have made gains with warnings that previous enlargements have seen a flight of investment to the east and an influx of immigrants heading west.
With Turkey, Iceland and five candidates in the western Balkans already lined up as possible members, do you believe the EU already reached the limits of expansion? Or would bringing in new members to the east inject fresh life into the flagging European project? Would membership for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova strengthen Europe against a “dangerous” new Russian expansionism? Or should the EU avoid provoking the bear with its outreach to Moscow’s “near abroad?” Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below and we’ll take them to policy-makers for their reaction!