How many members will the European Union have by, say, the year 2020?

With the latest round of enlargement not yet two months old, the exertions of the constitutional debate still straining the dedicated Europeanists, and prospective members largely a collection of the poor, ill-governed and recently-at-war, it would be reckless indeed to speculate about the who and when of future enlargements.

That’s exactly what blogs are for.

Having said as far back as 1994 that the EU would probably admit formerly communist countries when at least one of them could be a net contributor to the budget (Slovenia), I’m feeling good about this particular type of recklessness.

Under the fold, the EU’s path to 39 members (40 if Serbia and Montenegro divorce), along with the first European Parliament elections that I expect their citizens to be able to vote in.

The Little Balkan Expansion (2009)

The Ottoman Expansion (2014)
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Last Call (2019)


This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, The European Union by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

21 thoughts on “Finalité

  1. Why not Russia if you’ve got Ukraine going in 2019?

    A while back I tried to introduce the terms “deep” versus “wide” in reference to alternative futures of the EU; “wide” refers to a large number of countries (suppose there’s a massive, massive, massive backlash in the USA against the current ideological landscape; would the EU contemplate admitting the USA and Canada afterwards? Conversely, suppose Communism returns to Eastern Europe?), while “deep” refers to a greater proportion of state sovereignty being absorbed by Brussels. The deepest EU possible, I guess, is a speculative EU which functions as virtual unitary state over its members. The widest is co-extensive with the OECD, I’d say.

    I tend to suspect “depth” comes at the expense of “width” and vice versa.

    Perhaps there shall be a two- or three-mode EU in which you have different degrees of depth. What would such an arrangement serve? Is there a benefit to be had from a super wide EU?

  2. JRM, significant swathes of the Ukrainian leadership want into the EU. In fact, the whole spectrum pays lip service to it as a goal, since EU membership is largely understood to equate with prosperity. The main split in Ukraine is between the people who are serious about doing what it would take to achieve EU membership in the medium term, and those who aren’t. In Russia, there is no one in the political elite who advocates membership in the EU.

    Widening and deepening have long been subjects of debate. In practical terms, member states say they are going for both, while sacrificing (or, more accurately, postponing) a bit of depth in favor of breadth.

  3. Was Orwell prescient when he thought of Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia? I would think that in the far future, you could have an EU that stretched from Portugal to Vladivostok.

  4. I’d add: Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco and Tunisia, all by 2024. I strongly suspect that “Europe” will eventually come to mean the Euro-Mediterranean region, or at least significant parts of it.

  5. I think David’s roughly correct, but my guess would be that the ‘Little Balkan’ (or ‘Finally, Greece gets a land border with the rest of the EU’) expansion will happen in 2007, the Ottoman will include Albania (to prevent it becoming an enclave, and perhaps including a resolution of the Kosovan situation) but not Georgia and the rest will come in dribs and drabs along with Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon (and perhaps Libya, depending on the post-Qaddafi situation – it’s economy makes it a good candidate) before 2029. There’s also the other states that Jon mentioned, as well as the whole question of EU-African Union relations, but so much of that depends on a number of factors, entry could be anywhere between 2025 and 2050.

    Of course, there’s also Switzerland and Norway to consider – I believe Norway is having yet another referendum on whether to join in the next year or so, so it could join at the same time as the ‘Little Balkans’ and I suspect the Swiss will bow to inevitability and join by 2015 or so.

    Russia? Who knows – personally, I suspect Russia will end up in some kind of loose alliance/EEA arrangement with the EU, as it’s size would make full entry rather complex.

    Or, the sceptics could be right and the whole thing could fall apart by 2015.

  6. Hmm. If Turkey gets into the European Union, then an expansion into the South Caucasus becomes geographically plausible (contingent, of course, on Turkish-South Caucasian and intra-South Caucasian disputes being solved).

    I’m not sure about the possibilities of expansion south of the European Union’s frontiers, given current concerns over migration. In 20 years time, perhaps it could be possible, contingent upon economic development …

  7. I think Norway and also Iceland (and then maybe Greenland) will join, but I?m sceptic about Switzerland. I don?t think they will join before the EU is more like Switzerland. More referendums and less deals behind closed doors that is. But I am just guessing…

  8. Jonathan E, yes, Karabakh is the reason I think Georgia will head down the path faster than either Armenia or Azerbaijan. I think that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are more tractable conflicts (though I could well be wrong). I also think that the post-Shevardnadze leadership is more decisively headed down the path that leads to EU membership than Armenia’s present leadership. Granted, anticipating that less time will pass between now and Georgian membership than between the collapse of the USSR and Baltic membership is a bit optimistic. On the other hand, the principle that bits of the ex-USSR can join the EU is now established.

    Thanks, Nick, for reminding me of Norway & Switzerland. It’s easy enough to forget that they are in many ways bound by EU decisions, especially those that apply to business, but have no real input into the Union. (A fate, by the way, that awaits any country that balks on the constitution.) I think these two could join within two or three years of any decision to do so, though there might also be a temptation to “stick it to them” in accession negotiations for having waited so long.

  9. I’d put my money in Nick’s and Randy’s corner. Algeria not to forget. But in general, much slower. Especially for the countries beyond Turkey and the Balkans.

  10. Saakachvili says Georgia should join NATO within four years

    PARIS (AFP) Jun 30, 2004
    Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview published Wednesday that his country should become an official candidate to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization within two years, and become a member within four years.

    He told the daily Le Figaro that he sees NATO membership as “a kind of entry ticket to the European Union.”

    “If Turkey joins the EU, I am persuaded that Georgia will follow — it will be almost automatic,” he said in Istanbul, where he attended a European-Atlantic partnership meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit conference.

    Saakashvili said it was “imperative” to provide multilateral security guarantees for the southern Caucasus and Black Sea regions. Otherwise, he said, “our zone could become a source of permanent conflict.”

    He added, “the principle fear of Moscow in this affair is that American troops will be stationed on our territory,” he added. “We have said very clearly that we do not want that.”

    As for Russian military bases on Georgian soil, Saakashvili said they have no strategic importance, and it was up to his government to “make the Russians understand that their dismantling would not be a loss.”

  11. We need to consider rewriting the NATO treaty (renaming the organization for a start). Obviously the world has changed in ways that no one would have predicted when the organization was formed.

    I know that a lot of you think it’s a crazy notion, but I believe that fifty years from now, there’s going to be a world government. It won’t spring from the UN, any more than it sprang from the League of Nations. But, it will initially consist of the US, the EU, Russia, China, Japan, and a lot of up and coming nations. Membership will be by admisssion, just as we see the EU working today – and there will be obvious benefits to belonging. But there will be a bride price – your nation will have to reach certain standards of civilization before being accepted. In some cases, I see such a world government intervening in nations that are too far behind to make any real progress.

    We have an obligation to nation build. Yes, mistakes will be made. But to not step forward and give the gift of civilization, peace, security, and personal freedom to every person on earth is to say that some of us are more deserving of those gifts than others.

  12. Did Malta already join? I think Europeans would be fools to admit any majority-moslem countries to the Union. Disclaimer: I am American.

  13. Malta has joined this spring. I do not understand your reference to “majority-moslem countries”, Malta is 98% Catholic.


  14. Having just recently returned from Russia, and having lived there for several years, I’m significanly less optimistic that it, Ukraine, or Belarus will be in any position to join the EU w/in 50 years. In fact, I suspect that Russia will more closely resemble a cold Nigeria than Poland in 50 years. There is just not the slightest indication that its moving in the right direction, as much as I hate to say it. If anything, the leadership in Ukraine and Belarus is worse, though I suppose there might be some more reason to think that change could happen there. And, I don’t see any good reason to think that either Armenia or Azerbijan are moving any time soon (and 15 years is soon here) from the little-khan style of leadership, so I’m not so optimistic about them, either. Sigh. I wish it were otherwise, but I just don’t see such wishes being based on anything other than wishful thinking.

  15. I disagree that width must come at the expense of depth, incidentally. In the past 31 years, the European Union’s membership has more than quadrupled, from the original Europe of the Six to the current Europe of the Twenty-Five. Over this time, the European Union’s powers have increased significantly, to the point that Brussels is the source of much of the regulation that underpins the lives of Europeans from Lisbon and Dublin east through to Tallinn and Budapest, a single currency zone has been established covering the economic core of the European Union, and there’s a variety of reasonably promising initiatives on harmonizing defense, foreign policy, et cetera.

    Certainly the European Union isn’t a homogeneous federation. It was probably unrealistic to expect it to become this in any case–European integration in the 1960s, when the then-EEC included only six member-states, proceeded slowly. I don’t see any contradiction inherent to the idea of a moderately tight confederal European Union that covers most of the European continent and perhaps bits of the adjoining Mediterranean (and Atlantic?) shores.

  16. If, as Chirac says, there will be French referenda on all new members after Rom and Bulgaria, then there are very unlikely to be any new members after Romania and Bulgaria.

    I suppose the French might say yes to the Swiss.

  17. Interesting thread.

    Russia is the target for the EU members. Think of the markets, the oil, the bilateral trade and the fact that Napoleon and Hitler tried unsuccessfully.

  18. 2029: The European Union becomes the Western Union as Russia, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zeland, Canada and the USA joins it.

    I wish…

    Bush has set back this possibility by at least ten years, and maybe destroyed it for ever…

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