EU enlargement chief backs 2030 deadline for welcoming new members to bloc

Charles Michel says bloc should get ready to accept more members

The EU’s enlargement chief has backed a 2030 deadline for new members to be added to the bloc.

Hungarian Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi threw his weight behind the date set by European Council President Charles Michel despite European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rejecting the target.

Speaking during a press conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Mr Várhelyi said: “On our side we have been working tirelessly to that end, so I’m very happy to see finally the member states are also starting to move and mobilise politically, and ready to invest politically to have new members of the EU by 2030.”

However he ruled out the prospect of Turkey, whose bid to join has been stalled for decades, entering in the near future.

He said: “The negotiations for accession are at a standstill now, and for this to be remobilized there are very clear criteria set out also by the European Council that would need to be addressed, and these criteria are related to democracy and rule of law.”

It comes amid an internal debate within the EU over adding to the club.

Mr Michel, who heads the European Council which is made up of the heads of states of the 27 members, last month called for the bloc to accept new countries by 2030.

He insisted that “enlargement is no longer a dream” and “it is time to move forward”.

Mr Michel said: “As we prepare the EU’s next strategic agenda, we must set ourselves a clear goal.

“I believe we must be ready – on both sides – by 2030 to enlarge. This is ambitious but necessary. It shows that we are serious.”

But his call was snubbed by the European Commission’s deputy spokesperson Dana Spinant.

She said: “We are not focused on a date, but focused on working very closely with candidate countries to get ready for joining the EU.”

Ms Spinant added that Mr Michel had not consulted Ms von der Leyen about the content of his enlargement speech at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia.

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