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While European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed issues connected to the war in Ukraine toward the end of her speech, there was little fighting talk.

Welcome to Wider Europe, RFE/RL's newsletter focusing on the key issues concerning the European Union, NATO, and other institutions and their relationships with the Western Balkans and Europe's Eastern neighborhoods. To subscribe, click here.

I'm RFE/RL Europe Editor Rikard Jozwiak, and this week I'm drilling down on two issues: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's big autumn speech, and all the EU enlargement decisions that are likely to come by the end of the year.

Brief #1: What Von Der Leyen's 'State Of The EU' Address Tells Us About The Future Of The Bloc

What You Need To Know: On September 13, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her State Of The European Union address to the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg. As always, this speech sets out what the bloc's executive arm is planning for the future, but this year it had a special significance, as it was the last such address before the elections to the European Parliament in June 2024.

The outcome of those elections will have a significant impact on who will be selected as the new European Commission president by the EU's 27 heads of state and government who meet in Brussels some days after the vote. As an unwritten rule, the next commission president should come from the political party that secures the most votes. Normally, that is the center-right European People's Party (EPP), to which Von der Leyen belongs. Given that her address sounded very much like a pitch for another five-year term, it's possible she will run again.

For nearly three-quarters of the hour-long address, Von der Leyen appealed to European voters, talking about "domestic" EU concerns such as inflation, job security, and the forest fires and floods that have blighted parts of the continent this summer.

She talked up the European Green Deal, which is Brussels' attempt to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, saying that the bloc would make it easier to get permits for wind turbines. She enthused about the growth of "clean steel" plants in the EU and how Europe is attracting more "clean hydrogen" investments than China and the United States combined. She then thanked European farmers "for providing us with food day after day" and proposed "a strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU."

Finally, she vowed to invest more in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and protect European industry from being undercut by third-country, state-sponsored companies.

Deep Background: So, what about foreign policy, especially events in Eastern Europe? While Von der Leyen addressed issues connected to the war in Ukraine toward the end of her speech, there was little fighting talk. Rather, it seemed as if she had just taken note of news reports about growing local tensions with Ukrainian refugees in some parts of the EU.

"We will be at Ukraine's side every step of the way. For as long as it takes," she proclaimed, and added that the 4 million Ukrainians taking refuge in the EU "are as welcome now as they were in those fateful first weeks."

She also announced that the European Commission will propose the extension of the so-called temporary protection measures for Ukrainians in the EU until 2025, allowing refugees to have access to housing, health care, and the job market.

What was lacking, however, were any new proposals on how to deal with Russia. There were no new ideas on EU sanctions. A 12th round of sanctions targeting Moscow doesn't appear to be in the pipeline. There were no new proposals on how, for example, to seize Russian assets that have been frozen by the bloc or how to ramp up weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Drilling Down

  • On future EU enlargement, a topic that has become increasingly pertinent in recent months and is likely to dominate political discussions this fall, Von der Leyen was more prudent than the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, who in late August stated that the EU should be ready to accept new members by 2030.
  • She didn't offer any timelines. Instead, she played it safe and stuck to the time-honored Brussels line on when new members can join: "Accession is merit-based -- and the [European Commission] will always defend this principle."
  • She also didn't talk of a future EU of 33 or 35 or 37 members but rather mentioned 30-plus throughout her speech. So, who might those countries be? She noted that "the future of Ukraine is in our union; the future of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia) is in our union; the future of Moldova is in our union."
  • So far, so clear. But it was what she added later that was most intriguing: "I know just how important the EU perspective is for so many people in Georgia." Quite what that means for Georgia's chances of getting EU candidate status later this year is anyone's guess, but it's interesting that it was the people, rather than the government in Tbilisi, that she name-checked.
  • It could be worse. Turkey, an official EU candidate country that wants to get closer to the EU after many years of frosty relations, wasn't even mentioned at all.
  • The big question in the coming months will be how an enlarged EU will function. Several ideas on this will be floated, starting with a group of French and German think-tankers, who on September 19 will present their findings on what needs to be changed for the bloc to accommodate more members. EU leaders will debate those findings when they convene in the Spanish city of Granada on October 6.
  • Some suggestions of what might have to change in a bigger EU are already well-known. To name a few: not all EU member states should get their own European commissioner; the bloc should move away from the unanimity-voting rule in some fields, such as foreign or economic policy; and the increased use of "constructive abstention," which means that EU member states don't agree with but, at the same time, don't block a decision.
  • Von der Leyen's first input into this debate was both measured and radical. The measured proposal was that the European Commission will start a series of pre-enlargement policy reviews to see how each policy area may need to be adapted for a larger union. This involves how the European Parliament and the commission -- both already overstuffed, according to most observers -- will function at 30-plus members, but also how the EU budget should be financed and where the money will go.
  • That all might seem like a fun bureaucratic exercise for EU wonks but policy reviews rarely solve anything. And that is where Von der Leyen's radical proposal comes in: "treaty change if and where it is needed."
  • Even just the words "treaty change" can send shudders through even the steeliest of Brussels bureaucrats. Changing the EU's fundamental treaties -- which set out rules and objectives for EU institutions and govern how decisions are made among its member countries -- is seen as a Pandora's box, which, when opened, could lead to all sorts of demands and potential roadblocks. Anything from "a federal EU" to allusions about the bloc's "Christian foundations" can be floated, leading to endless fights, time-consuming compromises, and potentially even national referendums in some countries to approve the final text.

Brief #2: Get Ready For The Ultimate Christmas Compromise

What You Need To Know: If there is one thing that seems almost certain every year in the European Union, it's that the most difficult decisions are taken in December -- more specifically, the last working week before the final summit of the bloc's leaders, which tends to happen a few days before the customary Christmas break.

The "legislative desk" needs to be cleared before all the festivities begin and even more so in the latter half of 2023, as 2024 will essentially be one long campaign for elections to the European Parliament in June, followed by jockeying for the various key political positions in EU institutions. And when it comes to the bloc's Eastern Neighborhood and the Western Balkans, there are more things than ever that need to be sorted out. And sorted out they probably will be -- but most likely not until that final December week.

Deep Background: What are some of the things that need to be signed off on before the ringing in of the new year?

Firstly, there is a 20 billion euro ($21.3 billion) fund to pay for weapons and other military aid for Ukraine over the next four years, with the bill being footed directly by EU members states, their financial contributions based on their population size.

Then there is another larger chunk of money (50 billion euros) for Ukraine's reconstruction efforts, which is supposed to be made available for Kyiv between 2024 and 2027. That money comes directly from the current EU budget (known in Brussels as the "multi-financial framework," or "MFF" for short), a top-up fund that EU member states must chip in to.

Money matters aside, the EU enlargement process will almost certainly cause all manner of headaches. The European Commission should come up with its annual enlargement report by the end of October, containing thorough assessments of all six Western Balkan EU hopefuls, as well as Georgia, Moldova, Turkey, and Ukraine.

The report will also give recommendations on the next steps EU candidates need to take. But that may be pushed back to November, according to sources familiar with the drafting of the report but not authorized to speak on the record, as there is still too much to nail down, and the European Commission wants to avoid EU leaders getting bogged down with the report when they meet for their fall summit in Brussels on October 26. That could well mean any movement on enlargement doesn't happen until December.

Then, of course, there is all the EU cash, amounting to several billion euros, that Hungary wants to get its hands on but which has been frozen by the European Commission due to concerns about backsliding on the rule of law in that country. Few EU member states want Brussels to release even a part of that money for Budapest. However, it's the worst-kept secret in EU circles that Hungary can threaten to wield its veto on any or all of the abovementioned issues in order to leverage its case for the release of the frozen funds.

Drilling Down

  • So, can there really be blockages on everything? Most people I speak to in Brussels think that the 50 billion euros for Kyiv will be green-lighted rather easily, as member states are mostly united over the need to support Ukraine in difficult times. The main issue is that there are other "MFF top-ups" that the European Commission wants member states to contribute to and those obligations could well hold up the Ukraine money.
  • For example, there is an extra 15 billion euros slated for neighborhood policy, which will mostly go to countries surrounding the bloc, notably in North Africa in an attempt to keep migration to the EU in check. Then there is 10 billion euros earmarked for investments in key strategic sectors, such as microchips, set up to prevent EU companies from being undercut by U.S. and Chinese competitors.
  • The problem is that some of the EU member states that contribute a lot to the common EU budget -- for example, Germany and the Netherlands -- are in the process of trimming their own national budgets and might have a hard time explaining to their citizens why the Brussels budget must expand. Other member states, notably in the south, are keen to receive more money to manage migration flows. So, something must give. The question is what.
  • There is also the 20 billion euros to pay for Ukrainian armaments and other aid. Here, Budapest will be particularly hard to convince. For three months already, Hungary has blocked a tranche worth a comparatively measly 500 million euros from the current pot of money earmarked for Ukrainian military aid. The hope in Brussels is that Hungary will bend, as the country is facing an economic downturn and is in great need of the frozen EU funds.
  • But that will not prevent Hungary from also playing hardball on allowing Ukraine to start EU accession talks, which most other EU member states would like to see before the end of the year. In 2022, one of the seven conditions the European Commission gave to Ukraine for the country to move forward on its EU bid was to improve rights for national minorities. That's an issue that Budapest is pushing hard on given the presence of an ethnic Hungarian minority in Ukraine.
  • To get a green light from Hungary on Ukraine, Brussels might have to accept Budapest's push for more help to be given to other EU hopefuls. That could mean Georgia might get candidate status -- something that not everyone, notably the three Baltic states, is keen on -- and Serbia's EU accession might start again with the opening of new accession chapters. That hasn't happened for over two years, largely due to Belgrade's reluctance to align with EU sanctions on Russia.
  • But it is not only Hungary that will engage in political horse-trading on enlargement this winter. Croatia and Slovenia have both indicated that it would be wise not to let Bosnia-Herzegovina stand still as other candidate countries move forward. That could mean a push to start EU accession talks with Sarajevo, even though most other EU capitals don't think the country is ready for this.
  • And then there is the delicate issue of Albania and North Macedonia, who both officially opened accession talks in July 2022. What followed then was a screening procedure of all policy fields where the two countries need to adopt EU legislation. In November, that screening process should be complete and, in December, proper negotiations with Brussels, with the opening and closing of accession chapters, should commence.
  • The problem is that North Macedonia hasn't yet found the necessary votes in its parliament to change its constitution -- a key demand from EU member Bulgaria. Few think that Skopje will be capable of this during the fall, presenting EU member states with a choice of whether or not to decouple Albania's and North Macedonia's applications and just moving ahead with Tirana.
  • And then, of course, there is Turkey, which, according to EU officials I have spoken to on background, wants to "reengage" with the bloc. This means resuscitating its EU accession process, which has been stalled for years after spats with Cyprus and Greece. However, while Turkey's strategic importance in terms of security and migration isn't lost on anyone, the appetite for opening new enlargement chapters with Ankara isn't great inside the bloc. And it is worth noting that Turkey still hasn't ratified Sweden's NATO accession act. So, expect to see some horse-trading from Turkey on that, in order to advance its EU path.

Looking Ahead

On September 19, there is another meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Ramstein air base in Germany. The forum, which brings together defense ministers from nearly 50 nations, has become the most important venue for providing Kyiv with new arms.

It remains to be seen if the United States will be ready to green-light the delivery of long-range ATACMS ballistic missiles and if Germany will follow suit with their equivalent, the Taurus. It will also be the first "Ramstein meeting" for newly appointed Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, who is expected to give a comprehensive update on how the Ukrainian offensive is proceeding.

The International Court of Justice will start hearings on September 18 in The Hague on a case Ukraine filed shortly after Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022. In the case, Ukraine accuses Moscow of falsely applying genocide law, by claiming to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine, to justify the attack on the country.

Russia will argue its side on the first day of the hearings, and Ukraine will reply on September 19, with the proceedings expected to last through the month.

Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko (right) speaks with Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka during an ice hockey game at Shayba Arena in Sochi, Russia, in 2019.

Welcome to Wider Europe, RFE/RL's newsletter focusing on the key issues concerning the European Union, NATO, and other institutions and their relationships with the Western Balkans and Europe's Eastern neighborhoods.

I'm RFE/RL Europe Editor Rikard Jozwiak and this week I'm drilling down on two issues: How the EU sanctions on Russia survived a big legal hurdle and whether Georgia's EU dreams are slipping away.

Brief #1: A Big Day In Court For EU Sanctions

What You Need To Know: Last week, the European Union's sanctions regime against Russia -- and, to a lesser extent, its more minor measures targeting Belarus -- cleared one of the greatest hurdles: the question of their own legality.

Since the full scale-invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the bloc has imposed asset freezes and visa bans on 1,800 individuals and entities for what the EU calls "actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine."

The Belarus sanctions, which are a response to several incidents in recent years, cover nearly 300 people and companies linked to Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime, which has supported the Russian attack on Ukraine, and continues to crack down on Belarusian opposition and civil society since a flawed presidential election in 2020.

The inclusion of most of those blacklisted people is seemingly defensible -- EU diplomats have told me that it is relatively straightforward to present a good legal case for them. These include politicians and officials who have taken decisions that support the war on Ukraine or the crackdown against the opposition, military leaders who have committed alleged atrocities such as the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and judges and prosecutors who have rubber-stamped the oppression of individuals.

However, EU diplomats know that the public officials targeted in Russia and Belarus, apart from "big fish" such as Presidents Vladimir Putin and Lukashenka and their closest entourages, are unlikely to travel to the EU or maintain considerable bank assets inside the bloc. It is, in other words, symbolic without much real political impact.

Deep Background: What matters more, however, are sanctions against businessmen, oligarchs, and their family members who are believed to be close to the Russian and Belarusian regimes. And it apparently matters to them, too -- as European lawyers have challenged their inclusion on the blacklists in the EU's own court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Many of those individuals were slapped with sanctions in the spring of 2022 and have since had hearings before the Luxembourg-based ECJ. This fall, a number of verdicts will be issued.

This is a real challenge for the Brussels machinery, notably its legal services. Not only is the EU up against well-paid private-sector lawyers with rich clients, it must also present enough evidence linking these people to the regimes in question and, crucially, demonstrate that their support has contributed to the war in Ukraine or the crackdown in Belarus.

Essentially, the credibility and effectiveness of the EU's entire sanctions regime are on the line. Few EU officials want to repeat the embarrassment of the bloc's sanctions against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his inner circle, which have been eroded every year since 2014 by successful challenges before the ECJ. Judging by the slew of verdicts delivered by the ECJ on September 7, the EU is hoping they are on firmer legal ground.

Drilling Down:

  • The biggest decision against Belarus concerned sanctions against steel magnate Dmitry Pumpyansky and his spouse, Galina Pumpyanskaya. The bloc targeted Pumpyansky for his role as chairman of PJSC Pipe Metallurgic Company and as president of the Sinara Group -- roles in which he had contributed with crucial supplies to state-owned enterprises, including Russian Railways and energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft.
  • When sanctioning Pumpyansky, the bloc pointed out that he had attended Putin's meeting with 36 businesspeople shortly after the February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine began "to discuss the impact of the course of action in the wake of Western sanctions," adding that "the fact that he was invited to attend this meeting shows that he is a member of the closest circle of Vladimir Putin."
  • Pumpyanskaya was sanctioned by virtue of being the chairwoman of the board of trustees at Sinara, a foundation involved in the charitable activities of large companies including PJSC Pipe Metallurgical Company. EU lawyers also reasoned that her marriage to Pumpyansky made her "a natural person associated with a leading businessperson involved in economic sectors providing a substantial source of revenue to the government of the Russian Federation."
  • In its verdict, the ECJ upheld the EU sanctions against the pair and noted that "although Mr. Pumpyansky has not played a direct role in [the] military offensive in Ukraine, he is involved in economic sectors which constitute a substantial source of revenue for the government of the Russian Federation." The evidence the EU gave linking him to the Russian oil and gas industry was also described by the court as "well-founded."
  • Pumpyanskaya's appeal was also dismissed due to her clear family and business ties to Pumpyansky. Being a family member of a sanctioned oligarch is not enough to be targeted per se, but a case can be built on evidence that a sanctioned person has potentially spread wealth to circumvent sanctions.
  • In a similar fashion, and on the same day, the court also dismissed the appeals of another Russian oligarch, Gennady Timchenko, and his wife, Yelena Timchenko. The former executive director of Russian tech giant Yandex, Tigran Khudaverdyan, also lost his appeal against the EU's assertion that the company is a "key element in hiding information" about the war in Ukraine from Russians.
  • With respect to the Belarus sanctions, Mikhail Gutseriev, a Russian national with considerable energy and potash businesses in Belarus, also failed in his attempt to get delisted. The court didn't contest the EU assertion that he is a longtime Lukashenka acquaintance "and thanks to this association has accumulated significant wealth and influence among the political elite in Belarus."
  • All of these decisions appear to uphold two major pillars of the EU sanctions policy: You don't have to be directly involved in the political decision-making process regarding the attack on Ukraine to be sanctioned, and family members of tycoons and oligarchs can very much be targeted.
  • This doesn’t mean that any and all attempts to get delisted are destined to fail. Two more rulings are expected this week, and many more will be issued this fall. A number of oligarchs are likely willing and able to have another go at trying to pick apart the EU's legal reasoning.
  • Brussels didn't have it all its own way last week. Aleksandr Shulgin, a former CEO of e-commerce company Ozon, won his appeal when the court concluded there was insufficient evidence that his actions at Ozon undermined Kyiv. As reported in an earlier briefing, EU ambassadors had already decided in July to lift sanctions against Shulgin, Farkhad Akhmedov, and Grigory Berezkin later in September after EU lawyers indicated the bloc was likely to lose those cases on appeal.

Brief #2: Will Georgia Miss Out On EU Candidate Status?

What You Need To Know: It is fair to say that Brussels reacted with incredulity at the latest move by the Georgian government to commence impeachment proceedings against that Caucasus country's president, Salome Zurabishvili, for visiting foreign countries without government approval. It follows her visits to Brussels for talks with the European Council President Charles Michel on September 1 and then going on to meet with other state and government heads in the bloc.

Several diplomats I spoke to on background said they didn't quite understand why a president of a country aspiring to join the EU and traveling on their own budget to lobby for their country was regarded as a bad thing.

With her perfect grasp of French and English, Zurabishvili is well respected in Brussels -- and elsewhere in the EU. Her traveling to various member states this fall to drum up support for Georgia getting one step closer to EU membership is something Brussels officials regard as absolutely normal and to be expected. Or, as one EU official asked me with a slight air of despair: "This is sort of her main job, isn't it?"

Deep Background: The big question for now is what consequences the impeachment proceedings will have on Georgia's EU aspirations. Later in October, the European Commission will issue its annual enlargement report with recommendations on how to proceed with Georgia, as well as Moldova and Ukraine. In December, the 27 EU member states will vote either to endorse or reject those recommendations. (To endorse, according to the EU rule of unanimity, all members states have to agree.)

All indications so far from Brussels suggest Ukraine and Moldova, who are already candidate countries, will be recommended to proceed to the next phase -- the start of EU accession talks. From talking to a number of EU officials on background, their impression is that all the EU member states appear to be on board, so it could happen by the end of the year. Both countries are progressing well with the conditions they received in the summer of 2022 and, crucially, there is domestic political will to move forward.

For Georgia, things have always been a bit vaguer. It is already one step behind Kyiv and Chisinau, as just a "potential" candidate country. Brussels hasn't seen the same political enthusiasm for EU integration from Tbilisi as with the other two Eastern European hopefuls.

Controversial moves earlier this year -- such as attempts to enact a foreign agent law, which was compared to a draconian Kremlin law, and the resumption of flights to and from Russia -- have raised eyebrows in Brussels, as have comments from top government officials that it was NATO enlargement that triggered Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

While not happy with what was sometimes perceived as a pro-Russian stance and not particularly receptive to the argument from Tbilisi that certain moves from Georgia might "open up a second front for Russia," there was still an understanding among EU officials and diplomats that pressure from Moscow is keenly felt in the South Caucasus country.

Besides, foreign policy alignment with the EU was never one of the 12 recommendations given by Brussels in 2022 when it spelled out how the country should proceed on its EU path.

Drilling Down:

  • The latest drama surrounding Zurabishvili raises further questions as to whether Georgia is ripe for candidate status. "The bar for Georgia to proceed to candidate status is so low, yet they might not clear it in the end," was one comment from an EU diplomat who has worked on the Georgia file for many years but wanted to remain anonymous because they aren't allowed to speak on the record. Another Georgia-watcher in Brussels wondered aloud: "How many more own goals can they afford?"
  • In Brussels, several times I heard the claims -- which so far have been mostly aired by opposition forces in Tbilisi -- that the Georgian government actually wants to be denied EU candidate status so that it can blame Brussels and show to its voters that the EU is unreliable and never wanted Georgia onboard anyway.
  • The uncertainty over EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell's trip to Georgia on September 7-8 -- his first to the country in this capacity -- was also interesting to note. Normally these trips are announced well over a week in advance, but Brussels refrained from confirming the journey even after Zurabishvili's supposed transgression. That sort of hesitancy could well speak volumes.
  • Despite all those misgivings, I still think it more likely than not that Georgia will get candidate status. Some diplomats have referred positively to the current momentum when it comes to EU enlargement, with the bloc seriously considering how a bigger group of members states might look. This window of opportunity exists now but might not next year when the EU is busy with European parliamentary elections and selecting new commission and council presidents.
  • Another consideration is that candidate status is low-hanging fruit. Bosnia-Herzegovina got the same status last year, without making much progress or significant reforms.
  • Then there is the argument (and still the most likely outcome) that in order to move to the next step -- the opening of accession talks -- Georgia will be offered candidate status but with conditions attached. These conditions could just be the continued implementation of what remains to be completed following the original 12 recommendations from 2022. After meeting with Zurabishvili, Michel posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, about Georgia's need to focus on "justice, de-polarization, de-oligarchization" as well as "building inclusive political culture" -- all recommendations highlighted a year ago.
  • What's clear is that the recommendations for Georgia are ambiguous, and it's hard to categorically say whether they have been successfully followed. This gives the EU plenty of leeway. It wouldn't be surprising if other conditions could be thrown in at the request of various member states, such as well-run parliamentary elections in the fall of 2024, for example, or the release for medical treatment of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is serving a six-year sentence for abuse of power, a charge he and his supporters say was politically motivated.
  • Ultimately, Georgia's status can also end up being subject to inevitable political horse-trading. According to two European Commission officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, the EU enlargement commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi -- a Hungarian with close links to the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban -- is keen to give Georgia a positive recommendation in October. In the end, it's up to the entire college of European commissioners to decide, although they tend to be more enlargement-friendly.
  • Among member states, it's also possible that Hungary, which has growing political links with Georgia, will push for Tbilisi's candidate status as quid pro quo for agreeing to give Ukraine the green light to start EU accession talks. Budapest has used its veto extensively in recent months on various political issues, often related to Ukraine -- so don't rule out that this could happen again.

Looking Ahead

The big highlight of this week will be European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's State of the European Union address (known as "SOTEU" in Brussels-speak) to the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg on September 13.

The speech, which is meant to mimic the U.S president's State of the Union address to the American Congress at the start of each year, is seen as the opening of the fall political season in Brussels. This SOTEU is being eagerly anticipated, as it is the last one before the European Commission gets a new president and the European Parliamentary elections, both in June 2024.

In many ways, the SOTEU address can be seen as part of Von der Leyen's campaign to secure another five-year term. Expect a lot of bold proposals on further support for Ukraine and ideas of how the EU should enlarge, maybe even with concrete timelines.

Later, on September 13, Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya will address the European Parliament. It's uncommon for a non-EU politician addresses the chamber, and it is even rarer that someone who isn't a de facto head of state or government gets the honor.

The same day, the European Parliament is expected to pass a nonbinding resolution on Belarus, urging the EU -- among other things -- to adopt more sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, allow Tsikhanouskaya to take up empty seats previously occupied by representatives of the Belarusian authorities in EU-sponsored forums such as the Eastern Partnership, and provide support for those politically exiled Belarusians residing in the EU whose identity documents are about to expire and who have no means of renewing them outside Belarus.

That's all for this week. Feel free to reach out to me on any of these issues on Twitter @RikardJozwiak, or on e-mail at

Until next time,

Rikard Jozwiak

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About The Newsletter

The Wider Europe newsletter briefs you every Monday on key issues concerning the EU, NATO, and other institutions’ relationships with the Western Balkans and Europe’s Eastern neighborhoods.

For more than a decade as a correspondent in Brussels, Rikard Jozwiak covered all the major events and crises related to the EU’s neighborhood and how various Western institutions reacted to them -- the war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, Russia’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, the downing of MH17, dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, the EU and NATO enlargement processes in the Western Balkans, as well as visa liberalizations, free-trade deals, and countless summits.

Now out of the “Brussels bubble,” but still looking in -- this time from the heart of Europe, in Prague -- he continues to focus on the countries where Brussels holds huge sway, but also faces serious competition from other players, such as Russia and, increasingly, China.

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