The European Commission has rebuffed President of the European Council Charles Michel’s promises to get more countries into the European Union by 2030.
Speaking to an assembly of mainly Balkan bigwigs on August 28, Michel said that the EU and candidate countries “must be ready … by 2030 to enlarge”.
When asked about these comments on August 29, EC spokespeople were adamant in denying any hard-and-fast deadlines and target dates.
This is another instance of Michel making promises that contradict the EU rules and procedures upheld by the EC.
It is also complicated by a long-running battle of snubs and slights between Michel and EC President Ursula von der Leyen.
Responding in the press, the EC insisted that any country joining the EU “moves at its own speed towards the EU”.
The EC stuck by its traditional position that accession is a “merit-based” process, determined by objective criteria such as legal reforms and structures in a potential member country, as well as its economic performance.
“We are not focused on a date”, an EC spokeswoman insisted.
It appears this may not be the first time Michel has made promises beyond his remit, setting him on a collision course with the EU’s other institutions.
During the July NATO conference he promised to fast-track Turkey’s accession to the EU in exchange for Turkey lifting its block on Sweden’s NATO bid. However, Michel soon found himself facing considerable backlash.
For one, the Commission was adamant that the two applications could not be tied together, the EU and NATO being two totally separate organisations. Once more, the EC insisted that it could not compromise on “objective criteria” for political expediency.
The European Parliament was more outspoken in its view. Citing the increasingly authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, it accused Michel of “horse-trading” away EU membership.
There have also been dramatic confrontations between Michel and von der Leyen. The two have had their share of spats, the most infamously petty being “sofagate” when Michel snagged the only seat in an earlier meeting with Erdoğan, forcing von der Leyen to sit on a sofa on the sidelines.
It is often reported that meetings and communication between the two leaders of the EU’s two most important institutions are non-existent.
On being asked whether Michel had talked about his 2030 EU enlargement promises with von der Leyen, the EC told the press that it was “not aware” of any messages between the two.