JOINT Brief nº 30

The EU’s Geopolitical Enlargement – Ukraine’s Accession Will Make the EU a Stronger Security Actor

Fecha de publicación:
Anna Osypchuk and Kristi Raik

JOINT Brief nº 30 (November 2023)

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine prompted the European Union to grant candidate country status to Ukraine. This major shift in the EU’s approach was broadly seen by member states as a geopolitical imperative. Indeed, this time the geopolitical significance of enlargement is stronger than ever. A successful enlargement will be an essential part of Western efforts to make sure that Russia is not allowed to impose its sphere of influence and its vision of European security order on other countries.

The EU’s post-Cold War enlargements between 1995 and 2013 had a strong geopolitical undercurrent, although it was rather hidden and may have seemed secondary at the time. For Finland, which joined in 1995, EU membership became possible after the end of the Cold War and was a way to firmly anchor the country to the West after decades of resisting efforts of the Soviet Union to be drawn to the Eastern bloc.1 The Baltic states achieved membership in both the EU and NATO in 2004, being motivated by both security and economic considerations – they saw the closest possible integration to the West as a way to safeguard independence and reduce Russia’s influence.2  Thus, although security and geopolitics were not explicitly on the enlargement agenda at the time and may have gone unnoticed to many in Brussels and other Western European capitals, they were important for the new member states. From the EU’s perspective, Eastern enlargement was above all an opportunity to support post-communist transition and extend democracy, stability and prosperity to former eastern bloc countries.


1- See Risto E.J. Penttilä, “Finland’s Security in a Changing Europe. A Historical Perspective”, in Finnish Defence Studies, No. 7 (1994),; Hannu Himanen, Iloniemi – eminenssi (biography of Jaakko Iloniemi, in Finnish), Helsinki, Docendo, 2022.
2- Hiski Haukkala, Tobias Etzold and Kristi Raik, “The Northern European Member States”, in Amelia Hadfield, Ian Manners and Richard G. Whitman (eds), Foreign Policies of EU Member States