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May 30, 2024

Widening Without Falling Apart: Germany’s EU Enlargement Policy

Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock bei der Europakonferenz im Auswärtigen Amt 2023
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This analysis outlines the development of Germany’s policies on EU enlargement, explaining the ‘yes, but’ approach of the past, the strategic considerations and motives underlying the current policy course, and Berlin’s striving for ‘an enlarged and reformed EU’.


The Zeitenwende (‘watershed’) triggered by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has catapulted EU enlargement back to the centre of Germany’s European and foreign policy. Geopolitics has thereby become the prime motive for supporting EU enlargement and Berlin has signalled a firm commitment to the accession prospects of the countries of the Western Balkans and, since June 2022, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. At the same time, German decision makers feel responsible for keeping the EU from ‘falling apart’ by preventing it from integrating ill-prepared candidates into an ill-prepared Union. For the candidates, Germany continues to insist on a merits-based approach, which is however complicated by the geopolitical imperative to speed up the process. For the Union itself, Berlin is effectively using the argument of absorption capacity as a driver to reform EU institutions and decision making. Germany is thus leaving behind its policy of ‘consolidation first’ for a double strategy of widening and reforming the EU.

You can find the full analysis here.

Bibliographic data

Töglhofer, Theresia. “Widening Without Falling Apart: Germany’s EU Enlargement Policy.” German Council on Foreign Relations. May 2024.

This article was first published by the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies (Sieps) in May 2024. You can find the full analysis here.

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