Since 1993 the Copenhagen criteria establish the conditions for membership in the European Union. These countries need to have:
– stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for protection of minorities
– a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU
– the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.
These criteria reflect the values of the European Union that every new country should comply with. Values like democracy, equality, freedom, solidarity and diversity form the core of the European Union and they shouldn’t be negotiable. Unfortunately, in recent years we have been seeing that some EU countries aren’t complying with some of the values they swore to defend. In Poland and Hungary right-wing governments with authoritarian and populist characteristics are undermining the democratic institutions there including, the judicial system. In Turkey, a country that wants to join the EU, a similar authoritarian streak is happening with political opponents behind jail and freedoms suppressed. Anti-democratic forces are also arising in other regions of the globe like in Brazil. In addition to this, several European countries are choosing the ignore the millions of migrants that try to reach the Mediterranean shores.
Europe faces now unprecedented challenges like the large influx of migrants, the economic difficulties in certain countries (that include a rise in inequality and in poverty), the emergence of populism and extremism inside our own borders and climate and environmental changes that put our ecosystems and even our own lives at risk. European Union should be able to address and face these challenges while presenting a united front that is able to give all European citizens a decent living standard while maintain intact the European values that gave Europe its biggest period of prosperity and peace in history. In order to do this, it’s of paramount importance to be tougher with the member states or potential candidates whose policies go against the European values and to listen more to what the European citizens have to say including the ones that are critical of the EU. Better integration is required to regain the trust of these people in the European institutions.
Because most of these challenges that Europe faces are global, It is also important for EU to use its privileged position in the international stage to build bridges with other countries in order to find common solutions for those problems, defend democracy and to help their social and economic development.