Expansion throughout the EU’s history has taken a pattern of integrating nations that geographically and politically surround the core of the EU. This center has an economic incentive to integrate the surrounding nations, as it will be economically beneficial for them to trade with those nations. To integrate prospective members, the EU monitors nations for enlargement on EU standards for integration, which include rule of law, democracy, and cooperation with the EU and member states. The codified factors in the EU’s decision-making processes in extending capacity of the EU are outlined in the Copenhagen criteria of 1993. As the EU’s integration of prospective states slows, the expansionist strategy that the EU utilized historically comes to a boiling point in which it cannot add more member states.
While EU expansion is profitable economically and therefore leads to better quality of life for member states and prospective states, EU expansion intensifies inclusion of those who hold EU citizenship and exclusion of those who do not, who could also be referred to as “Other” in the eyes of the EU. This exclusion manifests in closed borders along the shared perimeter of the EU. This exclusion is paramount to any type of membership into a group, but it is embedded particularly deeply in EU history. The EU designated some states as council states and some as excluded states. Those excluded from the council are nations previously colonized by member states if the colonization is still active. Exclusion and inclusion are active functions of EU membership and are intensified through the means of acquiring new states. Yet, exclusion is not the only problem with acquisition of further states; this expansion can also bring about economic distress. A major requirement of prospective member states to join the EU is that state’s adoption of the Euro as its official currency. In the case of an economic downturn, this requires EU member states to compete not just within their own economy, but against other member states with more productive economies.
The EU has relied upon expansion to fulfill the economic benefit of joining and maintaining the union between its member states. However, EU expansion is not only finite, but ignores the risk of stoking right-wing populist movements if integrating nations whose people disagree with EU membership . Further, the pattern of EU development is expansive and integrative to neighboring states, yet it is now reaching a crucial breaking point, which could cause rigid borders between the EU and its neighbors. Before, nations on the periphery of the EU could expect to become members, but now that EU expansion is at a downturn, those nations are beginning to consider forming their own unions. At present, the EU must consider what its goals are moving forward in the areas of expansion and how to supplement the economic growth historically fulfilled by its expansionist policies.
1. What other options are there to ensure the EU’s stability and economic growth outside of continued expansion, knowing expansion is finite?
2. Is the criteria by which we induct member states sustainable in the event of economic growth or decay?