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Policy Briefs

European Family Action Plan

Mapping transitionary integration while moving towards EU membership

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Russia’s ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine reopened the discussion on enlargement policy as a transformative and stabilizing tool in the EU’s neighbourhood. In the December 2023 European Council, the EU leaders decided to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, while granting candidacy status to Georgia.

It is fair to say that the European Union has advanced very rapidly when it comes to Ukraine’s application, but the symbolic and publicly visible steps of this enlargement process, the celebrations and the big announcements, are now behind us. The calls for a quick geopolitical enlargement have also mostly faded into the background. Given that full accession is years away, we find ourselves amidst debates about staged accession or alternative forms of integration, as proposed in various studies about Europe of variable geometries.

We are at a point where the EU should develop a new form of realistic transitionary integration, one that prepares candidate countries for EU membership while including them in policies, programs, agencies, and funding, and, most importantly, inviting them to partake in shaping the EU beyond their already existing Association Agreements. What is needed now is a European Family Action Plan.