António Costa insisted that "clearly, there are neither institutional nor budgetary conditions" for UE's enlargement to take place.
Portugal’s prime minister said on Monday that the European Union, in the current institutional and budgetary conditions, cannot fulfill the expectations of enlargement and warned that the backlash of false promises could have dramatic consequences.
This warning was transmitted by António Costa at the opening of a CNN/Portugal conference, at Parque das Nações, in Lisbon, in a speech in which he pointed to a path towards a European Union with variable geometry and in which he also warned the new European Political Community would not take the pressure off the enlargement candidate countries.
In his speech of about 30 minutes, after advocating the reform of the United Nations – with the enlargement of the Security Council and the end of the right of veto of nations in their own cause – the prime minister referred to the current situation of war in Ukraine.
“This crisis has put the issue of enlargement at the centre of the debate – and it has done so dramatically in relation to Ukraine, but also, by extension, in relation to the many promises made over the years by the European Union, raising expectations, particularly in the countries of the Western Balkans. The European Union has very clear criteria for the accession of new member states, but unfortunately, it does not have criteria for its own capacity to receive new member states”, he pointed out.
In this context, the prime minister conveyed his position of principle: “Let’s be clear, with the current institutional structure, with the current budgetary architecture, the European Union does not have the conditions to meet the expectations it is now creating”.
António Costa said that if the expectations that some European leaders create “are merely a political gesture, then the European Union risks multiplying throughout Eastern Europe what has already happened with decades of lack of expectations concerning Turkey”.
“And the rebound effect of these expectations will be a huge drama in the short term if they are dashed. On the other hand, if these expectations were not merely a sympathetic political statement of occasion, the European Union has to restructure itself profoundly if it does not want to implode due to the new accessions”, stressed the Prime Minister.
In this context, António Costa insisted that “clearly, there are neither institutional nor budgetary conditions” for this enlargement to take place.
“The creation of the European Political Community is an important gesture to provide a common ground on global issues, including energy issues, to a diverse group of countries on the European continent, those which are hoping to join the European Union, those which do not know, and those which have been in and left the European Union, such as the United Kingdom. This is why the European Political Community will not be a substitute for the European Union, it will not be an alternative to enlargement”, he said.
In this sense, according to António Costa, “the pressure for enlargement will remain on the table”.
In this regard, he also alluded to the existing bilateral difficulties between several of the candidate countries for enlargement, namely in the Western Balkans, “which means importing them into the European Union” with consequences at the level of “entropy of the European institutions”.
“Europe really has to organise itself in variable geometries, and it already does this to some extent because not all member states are in the eurozone or the Schengen area. To be successful, we must have a Europe with variable geometries,” he stressed.
In his speech, the prime minister said that the European Union should increase its strategic autonomy and invest in reindustrialisation and in the relocation of several productive sectors, but here, he established a difference in relation to protectionist perspectives, which he rejected.
He considered that the European Union would have to find new partners in the world, “new friends”, and considered the conclusion of the Mercosur agreement to be fundamental.
“The EU must rethink its trade and agriculture policies. We know that the Common Agricultural Policy is the origin of the European Union, but it is also the most environmentally incorrect, the one that creates more protectionism within Europe and the one that most hinders the development of countries in relation to which Europe faces enormous migratory challenges,” he noted.
“Development aid cannot be about cyclically writing a cheque to say we are supporting the development of others. We have to understand that trade policy has to be balanced and of mutual interest. The EU cannot have blocked the Mercosur agreement for decades, which would be the main economic agreement on a global scale, especially since the Mercosur countries are culturally, politically and civilisationally the closest to Europe”, he added.