The Next Mile of EU Enlargement

Think Tanks for the Future of EU Enlargement Program

There is currently a renewed momentum in the EU enlargement policy with a fresh commitment to the Western Balkans countries and the granting of candidate status to Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. This comes 20 years after the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit and the promise of an EU membership perspective to the Western Balkans, but it did not live up to the hopes invested in it. In this period of lost time and opportunities, the accession has stagnated. EU model and narrative have been seriously challenged by competing geopolitical rivals and regional security risks remained high. The EU has its share of responsibility, but the slow reform pace, state capture, democratic backsliding – and sometimes lack of genuine will to accede – in the candidate countries did not help the cause.

But there is a genuine chance as the renewed EU enlargement now encompasses a region from Skopje and Tirana to Kyiv and Kishinev. For many, the current drive has been primarily a geopolitically driven response to the Russian war against Ukraine. Indeed, the war has been a wake-up call for the EU, but rejuvenating EU enlargement can also address the broader set of challenges and opportunities for the EU on a regional and global scale. This historical window of opportunity should not be wasted and the next few years are essential in keeping the momentum of EU enlargement on track.

In this challenging geopolitical context, there is a need to keep alive and further fine-tune the process of EU enlargement towards the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, for the sake of the preservation of peace, security, and democratic order of the EU, its member states, and the European continent.

The Open Society Institute – Sofia Foundation (OSIS; with the support of the Open Society Foundations (OSFs) launched the Think Tanks for the Future of EU Enlargement Program (TFEP; to contribute to fostering informed debates, eliciting recommendations, and synergy building regarding EU enlargement. This includes addressing the need to incorporate the perspectives of think tanks from the EU candidate countries relevant to the topical EU discussions and to the activities of leading think tanks in the EU involved in these issues. Such an approach would contribute to tackling the complexity, interplay, and strategic benefits of an enlarged EU for the continent’s security and economic prosperity.

The Think Tanks for the Future of EU Enlargement Program cooperates closely with prominent think tanks involved in the EU enlargement policy, including DGAP in Germany, Jacques Delors Institute in France, Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, and Carnegie Europe.

The website,, serves as a focal point for the Think Tanks for the Future of EU Enlargement Program as well as for highlighting reports, opinions, and pertinent information from think tanks and institutions concerning the EU enlargement process.


Marin Lessenski, Program Director, OSIS