While there is no lack of goodwill towards Ukraine’s European Union aspirations, it could be a long time before Kyiv joins the bloc.

The European Commission agreed on June 17 that Ukraine be granted EU candidate status, to be approved by the bloc’s leaders on Thursday.

Ukraine has turned to Brussels for years, but four days after Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24, it applied to join the EU, which reacted with expressions of solidarity.

With approval from Germany, France, Italy and Romania, the next step is for Ukraine to gain unanimous approval for candidate status from all 27 EU members.

Supporters of Ukraine’s EU membership gather in front of the European headquarters in Brussels on June 23, 2022. The European Commission has given the green light for Ukraine to gain EU candidate status.

This seems likely as even Hungary, considered the most pro-Kremlin EU member state, said it would back Ukraine’s bid.

Candidate status is the first official step towards EU membership, although Kyiv’s ambassador to the bloc, Vsevolod Chentsov, told the BBC that “real integration” could only begin after the current war with Russia ends. Russia.

However, Orysia Lutsevych, manager of the Ukraine Forum on the Russia-Eurasia Program at the Chatham House think tank, said it would be “a mistake to postpone real integration until after the war”.

“EU integration and reform can help modernize Ukraine by strengthening institutions, especially justice,” he said. news week.

“The EU will require strong accountability around recovery funds,” he said, “reform as part of the EU bid could ensure this. Postponing implementation would therefore be counterproductive.”

In any case, getting a seat at the top table in Brussels is an arduous process. The European Council also recommended candidate status for Moldova, putting Ukraine in line with half a dozen other countries in the EU waiting room.

Turkey first applied in 1987 and received candidate status in 1999, but negotiations have since stalled. North Macedonia has been a candidate since 2005, and Serbia and neighboring Montenegro have been candidates since 2010. Albania became a candidate in 2014.

Meeting the criteria for EU membership is not easy. In an analysis this month, the Atlantic Council said candidates must adhere to EU rules on democratic principles and incorporate 80,000 pages of rules governing judicial systems and commerce.

Already facing a flawed system inherited from its corruption-ridden Soviet past, Ukraine will need to establish the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

It will also have to develop antitrust laws to break up monopolies and large conglomerates and privatize state-owned companies by selling them at market prices to legitimate buyers.

“It will probably be many years yet before Ukraine can hope for full EU membership,” wrote Diane Francis, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

A Ukrainian delegation to the EU could also change the balance of power in Brussels. Kyiv would have great influence on policies made by qualified majority, which is determined by the population. Before the war, Ukraine had a population of about 40 million.

When the European Commission approved Kyiv’s candidate status, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that it was “the first step on the path to EU membership that will certainly bring our victory closer.”

The positive sentiment is shared across Europe, according to a poll released this week, which found that European public opinion strengthened EU unity in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

A survey of 8,172 people in 10 EU countries by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) found that 57 percent of people supported Ukraine’s entry into the EU, compared to only a fifth (19 percent) opposed.

At 70 percent, Poland had the most respondents backing Ukraine’s EU membership, closely followed by Portugal, Finland (both 69 percent) and Sweden (66 percent). The poll had a 3 percent margin of error.

Piotr Buras, director of the ECFR office in Warsaw, said news week in a statement that the war in Ukraine had provoked a “profound reconsideration of the interests of the EU and its neighbours”.

Buras called on the EU to establish an Enlargement Partnership, offering Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkan states “concrete steps towards deeper integration and a path to eventual membership.”

This should include the integration of the single market and the reconstruction of Ukraine, the energy and climate transition and stronger cooperation on security matters.

“It is important that Germany and Poland, as countries with key interests in the Ukraine war, work particularly closely to advance this new project,” he said.


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