Ukraine's Bombed Way to EU Membership
In the aftermath of the Second World War, hard power has been transcended by economic, social, and political integration to ensure security on the European continent. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken the very foundations of the European integration project. This is not only because Russia seeks to destabilize EU member states both economically and politically and not only because Russia is also defying the EU as an international actor, seeking to nullify its influence in Ukraine. Above all, it is because of Russia’s denial of Ukraine’s very right to exist as a sovereign nation. In essence, the Russian authorities have waged war against the values upon which the EU has developed over the past seven decades in order to overcome wars, hostilities, and rivalries in Europe.
As a result, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine represents an abrupt end to the post-modern, post-geopolitical period of European security, where the Union focused on economic and political integration as a way to overcome wars and rivalry. The EU was so effective in doing this that it developed a post-geopolitical identity. It eschews projecting power through classic military means;[i] instead, it relies on “civilian rather than military means, and to pursue the spread of particular values, norms and rules.” Indeed, the European project has been designed to avoid using geopolitics as a lens through which to view relations between European states. The end of the Cold War and the geopolitical contest between the West and the communist bloc in 1991 further reinforced this post-geopolitical self-identification.
This post-geopolitical identity allowed the EU to focus on economic and functional integration with non-member states while neglecting the more sensitive issue of security in the wider Europe, including relations with Ukraine since 1991. Russia’s aggression forced the EU to rectify this. Ukraine has aspired to join the EU for over 20 years, yet Kyiv’s membership aspirations were politely but firmly put to one side. Instead, the EU focused on technocratic aspects of relations with Ukraine. This approach “relegated” relations to the neighborhood portfolio—a low-politics, low-risk substitute for membership with its focus on market access, economic, and functional integration but conspicuously excluding full membership.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed the limits of this approach. Ukraine has gone from being marginal to a pivotal country for the EU. Following the invasion, the EU took an unprecedented step: after opposing Ukraine’s membership aspirations for the last 20 years, within four months of Russia’s invasion Ukraine was granted candidate status in an accelerated procedure. EU member states showed exceptional unity in delivering symbolic support to Ukraine by immediately granting candidate status in the landmark decision of June 2022.[ii]
As the EU comes to terms with the regional and global ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that Ukraine’s inclusion will have consequences for the EU itself: accession of such a large state entails strategic trade-offs and complex interlinkages between different political objectives, priorities, and policy areas. The key challenge is how to balance the geopolitical imperative of Ukraine’s membership against its readiness for membership and the EU’s merit-driven demands of applicant states against the (lingering) reluctance of many member states to Ukraine’s accession. Despite the massive symbolism of the decision, there is actually no consensus on Ukraine’s membership nor on the changes needed to bring it about.
Why Ukraine's Membership is a Challenge for the EU
In many ways, Ukraine follows in the footsteps of the Western Balkans, which were granted the prospect of membership in the aftermath of the Balkan wars in the 1990s. This was another example where European integration was perceived as a panacea to war. The result hardly qualifies as a success story, however. Out of a cohort of eight countries—each much smaller than Ukraine—only Croatia joined in 2014, after a ten-year accession process. This strongly suggests that accession would present a major challenge to a country the size of Ukraine. This is because size matters: the bigger the country, the greater the impact its admission has on the functioning, policies, and finances of the Union. During the 2004-7 enlargement to ten new member states, Poland was the single most important accession country, owing to its 36 million-strong population. Romania, the next biggest, had a population of 20 million. The pre-war population of Ukraine was around 46 million.
Despite the wishes of Kyiv, immediate accession was ruled out. A fast-track approach for Ukraine was not feasible for legal, political, and economic reasons. This is because European integration is focused on the single market, meaning that the EU is more integrated in regulatory terms than is the U.S. EU membership entails alignment with thousands of mandatory regulations and standards, ranging from food safety standards to energy efficiency to environmental protection. During the accession process, the EU ensures the thorough compliance with its standards in a complex and lengthy negotiation process, consisting of 35 negotiating chapters. Membership is premised on reaching comprehensive compliance (with very few temporary derogations allowed).
Ukraine has been harmonizing with EU rules and standards as part of the Association Agreement with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, which fully came into force in 2016. But Kyiv has a long way to go to meet all the necessary requirements, something made considerably more difficult when fighting a war, so Ukraine has joined a large waiting room with aspiring candidates and will be ensconced there for some time to come. This would not be a problem if the accession process was working well—but it is not.
In this way, the offer of candidate status glosses over a number of challenges: above all, the fact that EU member states remain profoundly divided over Ukraine’s potential accession, with the skeptical ones using the timeline of accession as a delaying tactic. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it will take decades for Ukraine to join. For many member states, the offer of membership is a symbolic gesture of solidarity rather than a meaningful commitment to admit Ukraine within a foreseeable future.
Therefore, the momentous decision will not be of any consequence if it is not accompanied by a major overhaul of the enlargement strategy. Working out EU policy on enlargement is a strategic matter which needs more leadership from the large EU member states, such as Germany, than has so far been forthcoming.
Diagnosing the Enlargement Stalemate
The 2004-7 enlargement was proclaimed the “most successful foreign policy.” Yet, the EU’s enlargement strategy has hardly worked efficiently since then. The process has become so stalled and dysfunctional that some regard it as “a showcase of duplicity and double talk.”
As it is, owing to a number of structural problems with the EU’s enlargement strategy, candidate status for Ukraine has almost no practical significance in the absence of the much-needed resuscitation of the accession process itself.
In a nutshell, this is because the enlargement process aimed at the Western Balkan countries has suffered from two problems: excessive technocracy and excessive politicization.
Since 2004, the key executive body of the EU, the European Commission, has tweaked and refined its enlargement strategy in order to ensure that aspiring countries are ready to join. The aim was to make accession conditionality both comprehensive and stringent—in terms of focusing not only on the EU’s rulebook (acquis) but also addressing the so-called fundamentals—that is, how the political and economic systems function. The accession countries have not only adopted EU rules and standards, such as food safety or anti-monopoly, but also high standards when it comes to democracy and human rights, judiciary reforms, and anti-corruption policies (the so-called “fundamentals”). Stringency was introduced to ensure thorough preparation before countries are admitted.[iii] For example, regardless of any regulatory compliance, the accession countries may be blocked from joining if their judiciary or law enforcement agencies are regarded as corrupt and hence unable to uphold and defend EU values and standards.
However, paradoxically, despite boosting political conditionality, the EU has in the Western Balkans failed to engage the political elite in pursuit of more profound political and economic change. Some argue that the EU conditionality provided “money, power and glory” to the self-serving ruling elites. Faced with such political obstacles, the European Commission has focused on technical issues to give the illusion of progress in their annual reports. Rule-of-law reforms were treated as technical, rather than political, issues. The EU ended up “offering accession as a distant prospect and then pushing for extensive technical harmonization in the hope that this would suffice to resolve intensely political problems.” At the same time, it has to be recognized and acknowledged that, ultimately, the political resistance to reforms may be too strong to overcome in the aspiring states, though that should not prevent the EU from using its leverage, resources, and expertise more effectively to fulfill its end of the bargain. Both the Commission and member states could have used political conditionality and assistance to support the domestic reforms, but this has been hampered by some member states. Sensing the disinterest or outright opposition of EU member states, the Commission has been overly cautious, attempting to stay under the “political radar.” It tended to focus on technical issues and avoided tackling more important and sensitive political issues, such as corruption or democratic backsliding, in the Western Balkans.
Excessive Politicization—The Role of Member States
The successful 2004-7 enlargement was driven by the Commission, with strong support from many member states, particularly Germany. The Commission decided on progression, specified conditions, and ensured compliance during the accession negotiations. Member states were not involved in the intermediate stages (for example, decisions to open and close negotiating chapters). Since the 2000s, however, member states have taken on a stronger oversight of the process. Under current EU procedures, a single member state can block the adoption of key decisions related to enlargement, foreign policy, or other major policy areas such as taxation. The member states, such as France, specifically requested this political oversight over enlargement to the Western Balkan countries. In practice, this means that, over the last 20 years, every stage of the accession process, including decisions to open and close 35 chapters in the accession negotiations, needs to be unanimously approved by all 27 member states. This has been abused by some member states. Veto power means that without the political will of all member states, the technical process—however well-led by the European Commission—remains largely inconsequential. In practice, this means that any member state can derail the process in pursuit of its own ends, unrelated to the membership criteria.
In this way, the enlargement process has become hostage to national interests and bilateral disputes, as was shown by the tensions between Slovenia and Croatia before the latter joined the EU, or more recently when the opening of the accession negotiations with North Macedonia was delayed by the successive vetoes of Greece, France, and Bulgaria. As a result, North Macedonia, having been granted candidate status in 2005, waited for 17 years to start accession negotiations. These delays were easily achieved as member states need to agree unanimously on an enlargement strategy and any progress decision for individual countries. Needless to say, the shallow enactment of political reforms in some Western Balkan countries erodes the support for enlargement amongst EU some member states, something which, in turn, weakens the credibility of the EU in the Western Balkans. This has become a vicious, self-reinforcing circle of enlargement atrophy.
Some reforms in the enlargement methodology to make the process more transparent and fair took place in 2020, yet results have been underwhelming. Recent decisions, such as the opening of negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia,[iv] were the result of Russia’s aggression and the EU’s “geopolitical awakening,” rather than the results of the reforms themselves, which left two key problems in place. First, as a consequence of member states’ reluctance and potential vetoes, any candidate status can still remain in limbo for years. Second, membership negotiations amount to “little more than rituals of opening and closure of [negotiations on] chapters, that drag on and which only the specialists are able to decipher.” As a result, “progress has not been related to merit for a long time, […] and the motivation of candidate countries to carry out reforms has declined, the longer the process has been ongoing.” The political influence of the EU in the Western Balkan countries has already waned in the meantime: the political elites pay lip service to enlargement, but “there are few true believers” left.
Overall, it appears that root and branch reform of the enlargement process is necessary.[v] This is particularly true in light of what is at stake when it comes to Ukraine.
Proposals for Revival of Enlargement
To overcome the enlargement stalemate and to provide an impetus to the transformation of the EU into a full-fledged geopolitical actor, various proposals have been put forward.
The most sophisticated proposal is the staged accession model. Over the past few years, the idea of gradual accession to the EU has gained ground as a model to revive the accession process by both sustaining the incentives offered to candidate countries and easing the concerns of those member states reluctant to enlarge further. It combines both the process of enlargement with internal reforms of the EU, including a move to qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council.
While originally designed for the Western Balkans in 2018-19, the staged accession model is relevant for Ukraine as well. The model is sophisticated and complex; it consists of four stages through which a candidate country needs to go before it becomes a full member of the EU:
I - Initial Accession Stage
During the initial accession stage, candidate countries would gain a (selective) observer status in the EU’s institutions and receive half of a conventional member’s funding. This would be granted once satisfactory ratings were achieved in accession clusters. In contrast to the existing methodology, all chapters would be opened and the lists of the acquis for each chapter would be specified (with a built-in mechanism for an acquis update). In terms of institutional participation, this would already begin in a selected and graduated fashion, starting mainly with policy dialogue.
II - Intermediate Accession Stage
In order to reach this stage, the accession country would need a mix of moderate-to-good ratings for their compliance across individual chapters and would receive 75% of funding (EU funding per capita under the existing policies), as well as some institutional participation in policies and institutions, (reflecting the different degree to which it may be possible for different EU institutions).
III - New Member State
This stage would be reached upon overall good ratings across all chapters. This level of readiness would be rewarded with 100% funding level, participation in EU policies, and full EU citizenship. At the same time, participation in institutions would be expanded but with some limits still applied, especially with regard to the Council and Commission. New member states would only have generalized QMV voting rights in the Council, while unanimity requirements are progressively reduced for the existing member states.
IV - Conventional Membership
Once all requirements are met and the EU moves to QMV, and there is a formula for the participation in the Council and Commission, countries would become fully-fledged member states.
In this model, the enlargement process would still be based on the existing 35 chapters listing obligations and requirements of membership. The performance of the applicant states would be monitored in order to allow both qualitative and quantitative assessment of their readiness across all the chapters. This would create conditions for a transparent and merit-based progression through the four proposed stages. Each stage would have its own specific criteria, the achievement of which would allow progress onto the next stage. This would release further funding and increased participation in EU institutions before full conventional membership is reached in the final stage.
Importantly, under this model, the EU would adapt its institutional architecture and procedures. For example, in the Council, which represents the member countries, decision-making would move from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The European Commission—the executive body—would adjust the number of commissioners and portfolios to enable it to function with 36 member countries in total (while the number of commissioners would be further reduced).
This model would put an end to the current enlargement impasse by offering gradual incentives, while reversibility could apply for backsliding candidate countries. This proposal is the most extensive and comprehensive, as it blends preparation for membership with EU reforms, including treaty changes—for example, with regard to the QMV for new member states. However, it is also the most ambitious and demanding in terms of the upfront overhaul of the enlargement strategy.
There are other, less comprehensive proposals to address the current stalemate. For example, the Partnership for Enlargement proposes to offer intermediate benefits on the way to membership. These benefits and incentives would include accelerated integration into the single market, EU financial support, strengthened assistance for the climate and energy transition,[vi] and stronger cooperation in security and foreign policy.
The Partnership for Enlargement would also offer enhanced cooperation and incentives while bypassing the vexed question of treaty changes, which is necessary within the staged accession model. At the same time, without treaty changes, the key challenge remains: how to ensure that this gradual integration will not stall for the same political reasons that the current enlargement process has.
Overall, the proposals aim to restore the credibility of the commitment, incentives, and functionality of the accession process beyond the current binary in-or-out approach.
However, EU member states’ divergent positions on Ukraine’s membership remain a stumbling block to any gradual inclusion. Thus, to safeguard the process, some treaty changes are needed. If codified in a new treaty, the staged accession would limit the ability of member states to block progress.
However, treaty changes require unanimity and political leadership, of which there is a dearth in the EU at the present. Germany made a pivotal difference during the 2004 enlargement by providing political steering but seems to have abdicated from this role as of late. Germany has not supported enlargement sufficiently to override politically-motivated vetoes from other member states, such as Greece, Bulgaria, and France, in the aforementioned case of North Macedonia. As a result, the latter waited for 17 years to open accession negotiations. Enlargement cannot be revived without Germany renewing its leadership role, not least given France’s traditional opposition to enlargement. Germany, however, has failed to seize the moment, even though Chancellor Olaf Scholz indicated the need to get the EU house ready by saying that enlargement needs to be premised on EU’s internal reforms.[vii]
Getting the EU and Ukraine Ready for Membership
No doubt, granting candidate status was a powerful symbolic act of support for Ukraine and its independence. However, against the backdrop of the enlargement stalemate, it does not mean that the member states will go beyond the symbolic step; indeed, several of them (for example, France) may rely on the current dysfunctional procedures which will result in the accession process grinding to a halt in the same way it has in the Western Balkans.
Ukraine wants to move quickly though past experience shows that the candidate states followed vastly different timelines, some of them completing negotiations in less than three years (e.g., Lithuania), whereas others have not been able even to start negotiations for 17 years (e.g., North Macedonia).
Thus, there are no guarantees when it comes to future stages of enlargement, as the experience of the last decade and half has shown. Candidate status does not mean that when Ukraine fulfills the EU’s conditions, negotiations can be opened soon after; nor does it mean that, regardless of Ukraine’s performance, they can be concluded in a reasonable time frame. For this, the whole approach to accession needs to be revamped, and the process needs to be safeguarded by offering robust conditionality, funding, and rewards.
As the EU noted, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine represents a “tectonic shift in European history” and thus a game-changer for the EU’s integration process. However, the effective “geopolitical awakening” of Europe is premised on unity, which remains fragile and requires constant negotiation. So far, the EU’s unity on Ukraine has been reached in a context of war and contingency. Now it needs to become standard practice. Therefore, dropping the requirement for unanimity voting in those policies in which decisions have to be approved by all member states has gained traction.
At least with regard to foreign policy decisions, such as sanctions, this is needed to prevent Hungary from protecting Russia’s interests in the EU. The shift to qualified majority voting does not require changing the Treaty, as it is explicitly envisaged by the Passerelle Clause in the Treaty on the European Union. This clause enables the European Council to adopt a decision authorizing the Council to decide by qualified majority voting on external action and common foreign and security policy. Key EU member states such as Germany, France, and Italy, as well as the president of the European Commission, support the shift to QMV in EU foreign policy. Yet, ironically, the move has been opposed by other Central European countries, which regard unanimity as intrinsically linked to their sovereignty. Their long-standing concerns over the protection of their national interests and security have only been exacerbated by German and French leniency vis-à-vis Russia. Therefore, against the background of the war in Ukraine, Central and Eastern European countries are especially keen to retain unanimity in order to retain their influence on EU foreign and security policy, especially given the distrust over the Franco-German alliance on Russia with their sheer voting weight in the Council. Paradoxically, the countries which fear Russia most and strongly support Ukraine’s accession are at the same time most reluctant to give up veto over EU’s foreign policy and enable France and Germany to dominate foreign policy decision making (or lack of it). For example, in Estonia’s annual report on internal security for 2023, it was noted that “even now, defence planning in our region is based largely on what Russia does, but sadly also on what Germany fails to do.” In face of this concerted opposition, Germany and France softened their stance and advocate using the existing possibilities within the treaties rather than a wholesale treaty reform.
Over time, from an inauspicious beginning in the 1990s and in particular since 2014, EU-Ukraine relations have become increasingly important. Russia’s war in Ukraine jeopardizes the entire European order, its peace, and stability. The EU member states showed exceptional unity in delivering symbolic support to Ukraine by immediately granting candidate status in the landmark decision of June 2022. This act appeared to indicate that, with political leadership, a renewed sense of purpose and unity within the EU can emerge in a very short time: “successful integration will be crucial to the entire future European order and the new self-identification of the EU as a geopolitical actor. This is rapidly becoming a priority for the EU’s foreign policy.”
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need for the EU to both restore the credibility of the accession process and review its own integration process. To face the challenges that arise from Russia’s aggression, the EU must reconcile a renewed, gradual, and transparent enlargement policy with changes needed to turn the EU into a more effective foreign policy actor.
The challenges that face the EU are likely to be as daunting as was the case back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when communism collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe. Above all, the EU member states and institutions ought to become goal-oriented rather than process-oriented, in order to “make enlargement a success again” and thereby deliver on its “geopolitical awakening” rhetoric.
[i] The EU (and its legal predecessors) has made accession very difficult. The latest country to join the EU was Croatia in 2013 and the accession process lasted 10 years. Several other countries in the Western Balkan region have been waiting to join for 20 years.
[ii] Since the 1990s, the usual practice has been to formulate the conditions before candidate status is granted by the Council. In the case of Ukraine (and Moldova) the member states granted Ukraine the candidate status but formulated a number of conditions that Ukraine needs to meet before it can be allowed to open accession negotiations.
[iii] The most recent revamp is outlined by the European Commission, “Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans,” COM 57 (2020), final, February 5, 2020.
[iv] The Commission’s recommendation was also to move Bosnia and Herzegovina from “potential candidate status” to candidate status, as a purely symbolic gesture.
[v] Tinkering would involve, for example, clustering chapters in different groups and/or a different approach to opening/closing clusters and chapters.
[vi] This would focus on transforming (that is, decarbonizing) Ukraine’s energy system and economy in order to facilitate Ukraine integration into the EU’s energy and climate policies and reduce its energy and economic vulnerabilities.
[vii] Tellingly, this point was made by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in an important speech in Prague, which, however, attracted very little attention across Europe. “Speech by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Charles University in Prague on Monday, August 29, 2022,” https://www.bundesregierung.de/ breg-en/news/scholz-speech-prague-charles-university-2080752.
 Arkady Moshes, “The War in Ukraine and the Europe’s External Policy,” FIIA Comment, August 2022, https://www.fiia.fi/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/comment10_the-war-in-ukraine-and-europes-external-policy_arkady-moshes.pdf.
 EEAS, “Europe in the Interregnum: our Geopolitical Awakening After Ukraine,” March 24, 2022, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/europe-interregnum-our-geopolitical-awakening-after-ukraine_en.
 Thomas Diez, “Constructing the Self and Changing Others: Reconsidering ‘Normative Power Europe’,” Millennium - Journal of International Studies 33, no. 3 (2005): 613.
 Stefan Auer, “Carl Schmitt in the Kremlin: the Ukraine crisis and the return of geopolitics,” International Affairs 91, no. 5 (2015): 953-968.
 Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk, Ukraine between the EU and Russia: The Integration Challenge (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
 Richard Youngs, “Ukraine’s EU Membership and the Geostrategy of Democratic Self-Preservation,” Carnegie Europe, April 2022, https://carnegieeurope.eu/2022/04/01/ukraine-s-eu-membership-and-geostrategy-of-democratic-self-preservation-pub-86771.
 ESI, “The Balkan Turtle Race: Warning to Ukraine,” ESI Report, July 13, 2022, https://www.esiweb. org/publications/balkan-turtle-race-warning-ukraine.
 David M. Herszenhorn, Hans Von Der Burchard, and Maïa De La Baume, “Macron floats European ‘community’ open to Ukraine and UK,” Politico Europe, May 9, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/emmanuel-macron-proposes-european-political-community-as-alternative-to-eu-membership/.
 Stefan Meister and Milan Nic, “EU Candidate Status for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia: German Leadership Needed,” DGAP Online Commentary, June 20, 2022, https://dgap.org/en/research/publications/eu-candidate-status-ukraine-moldova-and-georgia-german-leadership-needed.
 David M. Herszenhorn and Lili Bayer, “EU leaders back ‘enlargement’ for Balkans — just not anytime soon,” Politico, October 7, 2021, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-leaders-enlargement-balkans/.
 Solveig Richter and Natasha Wunsch, “Money, power, glory: the linkages between EU conditionality and state capture in the Western Balkans,” Journal of European Public Policy 27, no. 1 (2020): 41-62.
 Marko Kmezić and Florian Bieber, “The Crisis of Democracy in the Western Balkans. An Anatomy of “Stabilitocracy” and the Limits of EU Democracy Promotion,” The Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, March 2017, 95.5.
 Youngs, “Ukraine’s EU Membership,” 2022.
 The failure of the enlargement process to promote democracy in the candidate states is analysed in Wouter Zweers et al, “The EU as a promoter of democracy or ‘Stabilitocracy’ in the Western Balkans,” Clingendael Report, February 2022, https://www.clingendael.org/publication/eu-promoter-stabilitocracywestern-balkans.
 Zweers, “The EU,” 2022.
 Corina Stratulat, “EU Enlargement to the Western Balkans – three observations,” EPC Commentary, November 2021, https://www.epc.eu/en/Publications/EU-enlargement-to-the-Western-Balkans-Three-observations~4392d4.
 Pierre Mirel, “European Union-Western Balkans: for a revised membership negotiation framework,” La Fondation Robert Schuman: Policy Paper no. 59, Sept 2019, https://www.robert-schuman.eu/en/european-issues/0529-european-union-western-balkans-for-a-revised-membership-negotiation-framework.
 ESI, “The Balkan Turtle Race,” 4.
 See Dimitar Bechev, “What Has Stopped EU Enlargement in the Western Balkans?” Carnegie Europe, June 20, 2022, https://carnegieeurope.eu/2022/06/20/what-has-stopped-eu-enlargement-in-western-balkans-pub-87348.
 Michael Emerson, Milena Lazarević, Steven Blockmans, and Strahinja Subotić, “A Template for Staged Accession to the EU,” CEPS, October 2021, https://www.ceps.eu/ceps-publications/a-template-for-staged-accession-to-the-eu/.
 Kai-Olaf Lang and Piotr Buras, “Partnership for enlargement: a new way to integrate Ukraine and the EU’s eastern neighbourhood,” ECFR and Batory Foundation Policy Brief (2022): 6, https://ecfr.eu/publication/partnership-for-enlargement-a-new-way-to-integrate-ukraine-and-the-eus-eastern-neighbourhood/.
 Mujtaba Rahman, “Germany’s leadership gap,” Politico, September 28, 2021, https://www.politico. eu/article/germany-leadership-gap-olaf-scholz-chancellor-race/ and Judy Dempsey, “Judy Asks: Can Germany Provide Leadership to Europe?,” Carnegie Europe, September 30, 2021, https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/85463.
 For a sobering comparison of the processes for Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans see ESI, “The Balkan Turtle Race.”
 Council of the EU, “Informal meeting of the Heads of State or Government,” Versailles Declaration March 10 and 11, 2022, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2022/03/10-11/.
 European Parliament, “Passerelle clause in the EU Treaties. Opportunities for more flexible supranational decision-making,” European Parliament Research Service, 2020, https://www.europarl.europa. eu/thinktank/en/document/EPRS_STU(2020)659420.
 See Eugeniusz Smolar, “Germany, France, Poland and the future of the European Union,” New Eastern Europe, March 9, 2023, https://neweasterneurope.eu/2023/03/09/germany-france-poland-and-the-futureof-the-european-union/.
 Elżbieta Kaca, “The Introduction of Qualified Majority Voting in EU Foreign Policy: Member State Perspectives,” PISM Bulletin no. 162, December 2018, https://pism.pl/publications/The_Introduction_ of_Qualified_Majority_Voting_in_EU_Foreign_Policy__Member_State_Perspectives.
 The Internal Security Service of Estonia (Kapo), “Internal Security Service 2022-2023 Yearbook, 2022-23,” 2023, https://news.err.ee/1608945572/internal-security-service-2022-2023-yearbook-in-full.
 Smolar, “Germany, France,” 2023.
 Lang and Buras, “Partnership for enlargement,” 2022.