Austria does not want to change EU accession process, says foreign minister

 Austria is not seeking a reform of the EU accession process, and the non-paper submitted by Vienna has led to “misunderstandings,” Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has explained.

Critics said the non-paper Schallenberg and EU affairs minister Karoline Edtstadler sent to the other member states and the Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, would change the EU accession process. 

“The Austrian proposal goes in a different direction. Our proposal is gradual integration […] without changing the accession process,” Schallenberg told the Austrian Press Agency (APA) on Tuesday (21 June). 

The non-paper proposed to introduce intermediate steps on the way to reaching full membership. 

“We reformed the accession process only two years ago,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commented on the proposal on Tuesday. 

Schallenberg said that Austria never suggested changing the accession process. “The system works and we have to continue it,” he said. 

However, there should also be the possibility for a state to be treated politically like a member in areas where it has already adapted well to the EU “without losing sight of the EU’s full accession perspective,” Schallenberg said. 

Such areas could be energy, transport infrastructure, or research. 

Schallenberg did not comment on the fact that the often protracted candidate status is not due to the European Commission but to blockades by member states. The member states would also have a say in the proposed intermediate steps.