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International Relations and the European Union

International Relations and the European Union (4th edn)

Christopher Hill, Michael Smith, and Sophie Vanhoonacker-Kormoss
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date: 24 April 2024

p. 28113. An End to Enlargement: The EU, its Neighbourhood, and European Orderlocked

p. 28113. An End to Enlargement: The EU, its Neighbourhood, and European Orderlocked

  • Karen E. Smith

Abstract

Between the period of the end of the Cold War and now, the European Union (EU) has enlarged four times. In 2016, on the eve of the Brexit referendum in the UK, it had a total membership of 28 countries, almost half of which (11 member states) are in Central and South-Eastern Europe. By enlarging, the EU wanted to consolidate the democratic and economic reforms in post-communist countries, and spread security and prosperity eastwards. Its enlargement policy involved an obvious carrot-and-stick policy, to encourage reforms, mainly through the application of membership conditionality. However, 30 or so years on from the end of the Cold War, the potential of EU enlargement to reshape European order is clearly currently in jeopardy: the fragile consensus favouring the enlargement project has become more brittle, and rather than generating a secure and prosperous European order, the EU has found itself surrounded by an ‘arc of crisis’, with wars and atrocities in its ‘backyard’. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is proving to be the most serious threat to European order since the end of the Cold War. The EU will have to adjust to a much more insecure and threatening environment. The EU’s influence in its neighbourhood is tempered not just by Russia, but also by China and Turkey.

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