Merkel Has Spoken

I’m now back in Stockholm after two intense days of different discussions in Berlin.

It was the Bertelsmann Forum which was organized for the 10th time, and which brought together a rather impressive and certainly interesting crowd ranging from Angela Merkel to Henry Kissinger.

And in addition to Merkel there were the Prime Ministers of France, Belgium, Hungary, Latvia and Montenegro.

One of the highlights was the policy speech on European issues delivered yesterday by Chancellor Merkel. It had been preceded by rather extensive discussions on which policy line to take on some controversial issues.

And one of them was clearly the future of enlargement.

Here she come down with a position that is tolerable although not ideal, but which could have been a good deal worse. She did not fall into the dangereous trap of trying to define, once and for all, the borders of Europe.

In effect she said that existing accession negotiations – Croatia and Turkey – should go on, that the rest of the Balkans had a membership perspective, but that one beyond this in the forseeable future should not hold out the membership perspective to anyone.

I don’t have the precise text, and I have yet to find it on any of the official websites, but it will come.

In effect this means that membership for Ukraine is off the table for the forseeable future, and since this would only be possible in the longer perspective anyhow, the damage might not be overwhelming. The exact wording made it clear that the door was not closed forever.

She was also rather careful in her position on the future of the Constitutional Treaty. Without repeating past pronouncements that it should be adopted as it is – a rather unrealistic position – she pointed out some of the core issues that a coming treaty must dealt with.

To slim it down to just the most essential institutional provision was not, in her view, sufficient, and she argued for including the section on citizen’s rights as well in any new attempt.

Although we might see some movement on this issue already in the Berlin Declaration on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in March, she made it clear that it waws only in June – after the French presidential election – that the German Presidency would be prepared to become somewhat more concrete.

A wise line that allows for both reflections and debate in the coming months – although we are already starting to see roughly where the entire discussion is heading.

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