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The Return of EU Enlargement

With Ukraine and Moldova having been recognized as candidates for accession to the European Union, the next European Commission is expected to make enlargement one of its top priorities. After a decade in which enlargement had stalled, the EU is now poised to revive its most successful policy ever.

STOCKHOLM – Strange as it sounds, the European Union’s most successful policy ever has been deeply unpopular in Brussels for the past decade. But now, the view from the bloc’s political and governing institutions is changing. EU enlargement is back on the agenda, and it will remain there.

The EU’s enlargement and evolution has radically changed Europe. The bloc has grown from six members to the current 27. While it was originally meant to facilitate Franco-German reconciliation in the mid-twentieth century, it soon became a vehicle for securing democracy in southern Europe after the fall of the dictatorships in Greece, Portugal, and Spain. And then, after the fall of communism, EU enlargement fundamentally transformed much of Central and Eastern Europe.

The EU owes its prosperity to its vast internal market, where people, goods, ideas, and capital can move freely, and where many old borders and barriers have gradually disappeared. European enlargement and integration have not always been easy, nor is the process complete. But it has been a monumental success, overall.

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