Europe debates its destiny - and Ukraine

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 13, 2023

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The Big Story:

European leaders decide whether to bring Ukraine formally into the 27-member European Union (EU), a top priority for Kyiv as it faces its second Christmas fighting Russia’s full-scale invasion.

  • If Hungary’s Viktor Orban drops his objections to Ukrainian membership, a ‘yes’ decision would be historic for the EU.
  • It would signal that despite the political distractions posed by Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, the EU remains fully committed to helping Ukraine in the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II. This matters, now that Western support for the Ukraine war appears to be faltering. The US Congress has not yet managed to agree a sweeping new $111 billion military assistance package that would include about $60 billion for Ukraine.
  • The EU also has to seal a key budget deal to throw a €50 billion lifeline to Kyiv’s flailing war economy.
  • Also on Europe’s agenda is the potential accession of Western Balkan countries — Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia. Despite a messy scorecard in terms of meeting EU membership standards, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has boosted the long-term chance that at least some will make the cut.
  • Were the EU to be very bold and accept a bunch of aspirants, it would bolster the bloc’s geopolitical clout, increase its internal market to some 500 million and address labour shortages.

The Backstory:

  • The EU began in 1952 as a trading bloc of six, very similar neighbouring countries and expanded to 28. Croatia was the last new member to join in 2013, but after that, the EU lost a member, the United Kingdom.
  • Now, the EU — vast and very diverse — goes much further than trade and reaches into almost every aspect of life on the European continent, including environmental issues, food labelling and diplomatic policy. On December 8, the EU agreed the world’s first comprehensive regulation for artificial intelligence, the AI Act.
  • The European bloc is beset by east-west and north-south divides and democratic backsliding by member states Hungary and Poland has made others wary of further enlargement.
  • Greek political economist Loukas Tsoukalis argues that the EU needs to transition on the world stage from soft to hard power, swapping the role of economic and regulatory actor for political and military player.

This Week, Those Books:

  • A lyrical exposition on the European project.
  • A hilarious novel about some of its frailties.

Read on at

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