EU: Baerbock: EU eastward expansion has made Europe stronger

EU
Baerbock: EU eastward expansion has made Europe stronger

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (left) and her Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski (next to) celebrate the anniversary of Poland’s accession to the EU together in Slubice. photo

© Lech Muszynski/PAP/dpa

From the perspective of the Eastern European states, two decades of EU membership are a reason to celebrate. But from Foreign Minister Baerbock’s point of view, they were not the only ones who benefited from the inclusion.

On the 20th anniversary of admission to the European Union, the Eastern European states celebrated their EU membership as a success story. Poland found its place on May 1, 2004, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski said on Wednesday at a meeting with his German colleague Annalena Baerbock (Greens) in the German-Polish twin city of Frankfurt (Oder) and Slubice: “Among friends, among allies, in Europe, at home. Generations of Poles have fought for this.” Baerbock emphasized that the entire European Union had benefited from the expansion to include the former Eastern Bloc states.

A joint statement by the presidents of the Baltic states on Wednesday said: “We have experienced enormous economic growth, stability and security and at the same time represent a remarkable success story of European integration and transformation.” Heads of State Alar Karis (Estonia), Edgars Rinkevics (Latvia) and Gitanas Nauseda (Lithuania) continue: “The inscription “European Union” appeared on the passports of our citizens, marking a triumphant return to our rightful historical place as members of the European family .”

On Tuesday, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier celebrated the historic anniversary together with Czech President Petr Pavel in Prague. Both heads of state spoke out in favor of admitting further candidates for membership into the European Union. “If we leave the Western Balkan states, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia at the door for too long, we will be handing them over to actors like Russia who are by no means well-intentioned towards the Europeans and Europe,” warned Pavel at a European conference. Steinmeier also said: “The states of the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova belong to a free Europe and our Union.”

Baerbock: An “incredible moment”

On May 1, 2004, the former Eastern Bloc states Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as well as Malta and Cyprus joined the European Union. It was the largest enlargement in the history of the EU. The European Community suddenly grew by 75 million people.

The accession has made the entire community stronger and, above all, safer, said Baerbock in Slubice. It was an “incredible moment” 20 years ago “that we as countries, as societies, as Europe found the strength to overcome the division of Europe and that at the same time we finally became a community of peace and freedom.”

Eastern expansion “did not fall from heaven”. It always took the courage of political leaders and citizens to take this new step. “We believe that we need this courageous responsibility again today in order to turn our common economic and trade union into a security union,” emphasized Baerbock. What is particularly important is the cooperation between Germany and Poland. The EU must be reformed so that it becomes stronger in terms of security policy and speaks with one voice. In addition, the countries that also wanted to become part of this freedom and peace union would have to be included.

dpa

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