Brussels plotting 'swift' enlargement to lock Western Balkans into grips of EU

Leading Eurosceptics have warned the EU is storing up trouble for itself in the future in the shape of a backlash from EU citizens concerned by the bloc's apparently relentless expansion. Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein reaffirmed the "objective of a rapid enlargement of the European Union to include the countries of the Western Balkans Austria" during her meeting with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto.

She advocated "the beginning of accession negotiations" in terms of Albania and northern Macedonia, according to a statement issued after the meeting in Helsinki yesterday.

Ms Bierlein said the current European policy - along with the EU enlargement policy, Brexit, the EU budget and joint climate protection - was the focus of a "very constructive discussion" with her counterpart Antti Rinne.

Sheila Lawlor, director of the Politeia think tank, suggested the EU's approach was "reminiscent of the Roman empire".

She told Express.co.uk: "This is about an integrated Franco-Germany project which came about for a very good reason - the French had been invaded by Germany three times in living memory.

"The point of the EU project was to create a Franco-German axis to prevent this happening again.

"The two countries have different aims - France seeks to lead Europe, as demonstrated by Emmanuel Macron, while Germany wanted to be rehabilitated and to benefit economically.

"But what is in their interests is not necessarily good for other countries.

"The EU needs to change, to cut down and trim, to do less centrally under big Government.

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"The EU needs to reform from the inside economically and politically - we should not forget that there are large numbers of eurosceptics living in EU founder countries, including France and Germany.

"These eurosceptic attitudes will only become more pronounced if countries with different levels of development - for example Albania and North Macedonia - join before existing and other new members are economically prosperous.

Tory MP and Eurosceptic Daniel Kawczynski told Express.co.uk: "Countries like Poland and Hungary have a shock coming when the UK leaves because that will cut the EU's budget by 20 percent.

"They could find themselves paying for Kosovo, Moldova and even Ukraine and the boot will be on the other foot."

Mr Kawczynski also emphasised that would trigger further euroscepticism within the bloc.

Turning his attention to the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt, who this week characterised the EU as an "empire", Mr Kawczynski said: "The reality of the situation is that people are striving for sovereignty throughout the world.

"The EU is expanding but it is also digging down further and taking away from each of its component parts, removing more and more sovereignty as it goes."

Speaking at Liberal Democrats' annual conference last week, Mr Verhofstadt said: “In the world order of tomorrow, the world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation states or countries, it’s a world order that is based on Empires, China is not a nation, it’s a civilisation.

“India, you know it better than I do, is not a nation, there are two thousands nations in India, there are twenty different languages that are used there, there are four big religions at the same time.”

Mr Verhofstadt continued: “It is the biggest democracy worldwide.

“The US is also an Empire, more than a nation, maybe tomorrow they will speak more Spanish than English, I don’t know what will happen.”

“And then finally, the Russian Federation, the world of tomorrow is a world of Empires, in which we Europeans and you British can only defend your interests, your way of life by doing it together in a European framework and a European Union.”

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