Can the bloc afford new members within the east? – DW – 04/23/2024 | EUROtoday

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“No more farmers, no more bread” was a well-liked slogan in the course of the greater than 200 road blockades organized by Polish farmers in February this yr.

Outside the Polish city of Kock, a two-hour drive from the Ukrainian border, for instance, a whole bunch of tractors blocked a road to stop low cost Ukrainian grain from coming into the nation. For farmers right here, there’s one other main fear: They worry that the entry of Poland’s jap neighbor into the EUcould threaten their livelihoods.

“They must forget about it. It’s a crazy idea,” one of many protesting farmers advised DW in the course of the blockade.

For greater than a decade, the EU appeared like a closed membership with a number of international locations lining as much as get in. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has basically modified this.

In December, the EU opened accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova and granted candidate standing to Georgia.

Political push hits finances constraints

“For obvious reasons, the EU is now seeing enlargement as a security instrument. And the budget is part of the discussions, but it might not necessarily be the deciding factor,” Thu Nguyen, deputy director of the Berlin-based unbiased suppose tank, Jacques Delors Centre, advised DW.

The latest protests in Poland are a reminder although that economics are invariably a part of the EU’s political drive. And Brussels’ new enlargement enthusiasm is accompanied by fears that enlargement will put among the EU’s members and residents at an financial drawback.

The EU spends the most important chunks of its finances on regional improvement and agriculture. Those member states which are much less well-off get more cash from the EU than they pay in. The eight international locations presently in line for becoming a member of are all poorer than the present member states. Turkey is the ninth EU candidate nation, however its accession course of has been suspended.

Poland: Farmers offended at Ukraine

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Hopes for financial enchancment

For Jasna Pejovic from Montenegro, EU membership would give her nation “more legitimacy.” Montenegro is the nation furthest forward within the queue to affix the EU and 80% of its inhabitants needs to be a part of the bloc. Speaking to DW on the workplace of her e-learning startup Flourish within the capital Podgorica, Jasna says being an EU citizen could be a stamp of approval for her enterprise.

“[Investors] say: ‘We never did business with Montenegro, and we don’t know how to do it.’ I asked them: ‘If we were part of the European Union, would it be different?’ And they say it would be different. Because they know about the European Union.”

With a inhabitants of simply 630,000, Montenegro is a small nation like many within the Western Balkans. It would not be a lot of a pressure on the EU’s finances.

“If the EU were to take in Montenegro tomorrow morning and pay for it, literally pay for it. No one would notice, so it’s clearly affordable,” stated Nathalie Tocci, an advisor to 2 former EU international coverage commissioners. But, for the EU “the economic upside is not there,” she added.

Mila Kasalica, an economist and finance chief of the municipality of Zeta in Montenegro, believes EU membership could be transformative for her nation. “We have around 45% to 48% of the living standard of EU countries. That is the big dream in the accession process: Converging in real terms with [EU] living standards.”

Admitting the Western Balkan international locations would deliver financial alternatives to tens of millions of individuals, at a manageable value to the EU. Yet, most Western Balkan international locations have been EU candidates for over a decade. North Macedonia even for 2.

Ukraine — the elephant within the room

More lately, a brand new candidate for the EU accession has emerged on the jap horizon: Ukraine. Hard-pressed by the Russian invasion, the nation acquired candidate standing in June 2022.

But essentially the most populous — and poorest — of all candidate international locations could be “a different ball game,” says Nathalie Tocci, “because of its size, because of its agriculture sector, because of its average wealth, and, above all, because it’s a country at war with €500 billion in reconstruction and still counting.”

If Ukraine have been to affix the EU, it could grow to be the bloc’s greatest agricultural producer and weigh most closely on the bloc’s funds.

While the entire EU’s farmers mixed until about 157 million hectares (387.35 million acres) of arable land, Ukraine would add an additional 41 million hectares.

For some present members, that might imply unwelcome competitors within the single market.

Poland, for instance, has grow to be probably the most aggressive meals producers within the EU since becoming a member of in 2004. If Ukraine joins the EU, this position can be threatened, as a result of Ukraine’s industrial farms dwarf European ones. “We would most probably go bankrupt. Because we would be easily flooded with the much cheaper products from Ukraine,” says Lukasz Czech, a Polish grain and pig farmer from Parczew, who receives a part of his earnings from EU subsidies.

Ripping a gap within the EU finances

According to an inner investigation by the European Council, admitting all candidates would value the EU €256 billion ($272 billion), with Ukraine alone estimated to obtain €186 billion over seven years, not together with reconstruction bills.

Thu Nguyen thinks “the financial impact would be not as high as some of the numbers suggest.”

However, Thu Nguyen can’t say precisely the place the additional cash will come from. “It is possible that it comes from the current member states. It is possible that the EU raises its own money through new resources. For example, there are discussions about a plastic tax or carbon adjustment mechanisms.”

Some of the EU member states are urgent forward with the accession course of at an unprecedented velocity. Whether or not they succeed, nevertheless, will depend upon the long run make-up of the brand new EU Parliament to be elected in June.

Edited by: Uwe Hessler