The Gordian Knot of EU Enlargment

Intervention in the 14th French-Baltic Foreign and Security Policy Seminar 19-20 October 2022 Vilnius.

We now have with deepening discomfort realized that Ukraine has saved the EU from Russia. The EU, or Europe in general, sleepwalked into Russia’s trap and only the failure of Putin’s blitzkrieg on February 24 saved the EU from dire consequences.

Can you imagine the EU adopting meaningful sanctions against Russia if a puppet regime had been installed in Kyiv and a guerilla war in the provinces?

Putin would only have to blackmail the EU by threatening to turn off the gas tap and we would have  more than one country against meaningful sanctions. The turmoil we see today in the energy market would be small change if Putin had succeeded in his aggression against Ukraine. We would have not time to find alternative sources and speed up development of new sources such as hydrogen.

If we are honest, who brought about the energy crisis in Europe? We or Russia? What made us increase our dependence on Russian gas, oil, coal, nuclear energy?

Can the EU in gratitude grant accession to Ukraine? Is the acqui communataireas valid in war as in peace? Does not force majeure make any difference?

The energy dependence on Russia is being taken care of in a hurry but the EU cannot escape from the elephant in the room - Ukraine and its accession - for one existential reason - Russia’s goal is to destroy Europe. If Ukraine goes down, so does Europe.

Here we are confronted by the EU’s Gordian knot or knots (legend tells us that Alexander was confronted with several knots in one). 

The “knots” are the so-called fear of “empire overstretch”. The EU needs internal reforms to improve its functioning. Is Qualified Majority Voting minus one the answer? This would help in dealing with Hungary, but we know that small states sometimes know better than big states as we have seen.

“Enlargement fatigue” or lack of political will to enlarge, especially on the part of the bigger and richer member states is one more knot.  This is clear from the recent elections in France and Italy.  But let us not forget the Dutch advisory referendum in 2016 which said “no” to Ukraine becoming an associative member.

It was a political tragedy for the EU when Great Britain chose to exit the EU. But it remains in Europe. Can Ukraine fill the void? Must it be viewed as a burden, not as an asset, a much needed asset?

Can the newly inaugurated European Political Community replace EU membership for Ukraine?  A political demonstration of solidarity of European states on the top political level is comendable but the Council of Europe aready exists on the operational level.

Ukraine has a real army that can beat a superpower. It has in a few months adopted NATO standards and weapons. It has designed and developed its own howitzer, the Bohdana that drove off the Russian army from Snake Island.

It has exposed the yawning gap in EU’s military dimension which is only now being seriously attended to. This may save Europe for worse days still to come. China is ready to use military force to take Taiwan. Fact is, it is an ally of Russia. It is just more prudent.

Europe needs not strategic autonomy but a Europe that is capable of demonstrating military power comensurate to its economic and political strength.

Ukraine has, finally, shocked Germany out of its kriegschuld inferiority complexto become a much needed, not to say crucial, military power. There cannot be a top German general in Brussels who does not have an army.

The question to be or not to be for the EU on Ukraine’s accession is either to cut the knot with one slash, or, taking a closer look, as legend says Alexander did, just pull out the linch pin from the pole to free it from the yoke of indecision.

Perhaps the “stadium model” as put forward by Germany for the Baltic states to join the EU, which saved the EU from a geopolitical fiasco, can offer a path to find the linch pin?*

The EU can and must not loose this opportunity in a geopolitical zeitenwendeand rise to the occasion. It must welcome Ukraine as a member!

*Lejins, Atis, Baltic Security Prospects at the Turn of the 21st Century. Helsinki: Kikimora Publications, 1999. https:/

Publicēts 11. novembris, 2022

Autors Atis Lejiņš