PARIS: The European Union is set for a “small revolution” through its enlargement to include Ukraine and potentially another nine countries, France’s Europe minister said on Friday.

French President Emmanuel Macron created surprise on Wednesday by throwing his weight firmly behind the broadening of the 27-member EU in a speech in Slovakia.

“The question for us is not whether we should enlarge... but how we should do it,” Macron told an audience, having previously vetoed EU membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia in 2019.

Europe Minister Laurence Boone explained on Friday that the widening of EU borders would represent “a large shock” that would require changes to the functioning of the grouping which last underwent a major expansion in 2004.

“It means revisiting our policies, making changes to the budgets, to the institutions,” she told Europe 1 radio, saying that it would be the “project for the next decade”.

Enlarging meant considering “how do we organise ourselves to go forward. It’s a small revolution,” she added.

Macron’s clear backing for EU enlargement, as well as his endorsement for Ukraine joining the Nato military alliance, has been brought about by Russia’s invasion of its neighbour in February last year.

Analysts say any new expansion is likely to be accompanied with major changes to the EU decision-making process, which requires unanimity between its 27 members in many policy areas.

In his speech, Macron hinted at an idea he has raised in the past of a so-called “multi-speed Europe” in which new countries would be admitted, but have a different status and rights compared with historic members.

A total of 10 countries are considered candidates or potential candidates for EU membership, including Ukraine but also Moldova, Georgia and, most controversially, Turkiye.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2023

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