Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has refocused the European Union’s attention on its enlargement policy, but also made democracy’s defence a priority of the highest geopolitical as well as normative order. The direct threat to Ukraine’s fledgling democracy is framed as an attack on the idea of democracy itself. The European Union (EU) has stepped up its efforts to support Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia and granted candidate status for membership to some, while recommending the opening of accession under certain conditions to others. Beyond Ukraine, the war has also rebooted the EU’s perspective on the Western Balkan accession. However, this perspective must contend with declining regional democratic standards in the Western Balkans and a high risk of ruling elites grabbing more EU funds while avoiding scrutiny of their actions and escaping compliance with democratic and rule of law principles. Despite the need of EU’s foreign policy to deliver better on democracy promotion in the aftermath of the war, none of the options for future enlargement propose what the EU can do better to build democratic institutions in both the Western Balkans and towards the new applicants, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. The roundtable aims to fill that void by discussing the need to strengthen the democracy dimension of enlargement, as recently underlined in the Radicality of the Sunlight report
prepared by the CEPS-SWP High-Level Group on Bolstering EU Democracy. In the light of state capture, clientelism and widespread corruption in the candidate countries, the roundtable participants will debate what requirements should be built into the process to address these challenges.