European Union makes Ukraine a candidate for EU membership

by mcdix

The European Union decided on Thursday to put Ukraine on the path to EU membership. It acted with unusual speed and unity to pull the troubled country further from Russia’s influence and tie it closer to the West. European Union leaders have agreed to nominate Ukraine for EU membership, triggering a potentially years-long process that could tie the country closer to the West. At a summit in Brussels, leaders of the EU’s 27 countries gathered the unanimous approval required to grant Ukraine candidate status. That sets in motion a membership process that can take years or even decades.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his gratitude, declaring: “Ukraine’s future lies within the EU.” Sincerely commend the decision of EU leaders at #EUCO to grant 🇺🇦 candidate status. It is a unique and historic moment in 🇺🇦-🇪🇺 relationships. Thank you to @CharlesMichel, @vonderleyen, and EU leaders for their support. The future of Ukraine lies within the EU. #EmbraceUkraine

Ukraine a candidate for EU membership

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 23, 2022

“It’s a victory. We’ve been waiting for 120 days and 30 years,” he said on Instagram, referring to the length of the war and the decades since Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “And now we will defeat the enemy.” The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke of a “good day for Europe”. The EU also granted candidate status to the small country of Moldova, another former Soviet republic bordering Ukraine.

Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after Moscow was invaded on February 24. Thursday’s decision was unusually swift for the EU and its slow approach to expansion. But the war and Ukraine’s request for speedy treatment made the country’s case urgent. To gain EU membership, countries must fulfill several detailed economic and political conditions, including a commitment to the rule of law and other democratic principles. Ukraine will need to curb entrenched government corruption and implement other reforms.

The European Parliament approved Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit began and passed a resolution calling EU governments to “act without delay” and “fulfill their historical responsibility”. “It will strengthen Ukraine; it will strengthen Europe. It is a decision for freedom and democracy and puts us on the right side of history,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said before the final decision. The EU countries are united in supporting Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion with money and weapons and have passed unprecedented economic sanctions against the Kremlin.

EU candidate status does not automatically grant the right to join the bloc and does not provide immediate security guarantees. However, once a country joins it, it is covered by an EU treaty clause that says that if a member becomes a victim of armed aggression, the other EU countries must help it by all means in their power. However, the main benefits of EU membership are economical, as it gives access to a market of 450 million consumers with free movement of labor, goods, services, and capital.

Ukraine’s desire to join NATO

Ukraine has long aspired to join NATO as well. Still, the military alliance has no plans to make an invitation, partly due to government corruption, deficiencies in the country’s defense set-up, and the disputed boundaries.

Before the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine should never be allowed to join NATO, which he has condemned for its eastward spread to Russia’s flank. But earlier this month, he didn’t seem to mind Ukraine’s determination to move closer to the EU. EU leaders also agreed on Thursday to recognize a “European perspective” for yet another former Soviet republic, Georgia. European Council President Charles Michel said the EU would be ready to approve its candidate status once “open priorities” are addressed.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose country has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine’s European ambitions for years, said on Twitter: “This is a great moment for the unity of Europe and the defense of its fundamental values. The fight for freedom continues. using.” Ukraine has officially been considered a candidate country for EU membership. The fight for 🇺🇦 freedom continues! It is a great day for Europe – a historic moment for European unity and the defense of its values. — Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) June 23, 2022

The membership process can be long and arduous.

For example, Turkey applied for membership in 1987, was granted candidate status in 1999, and had to wait until 2005 to begin negotiations for accession. Only one of the more than 30 “negotiating chapters” has been completed in the years since, and the whole process has come to a standstill due to several disputes between the EU and Turkey. Likewise, several Balkan countries have been trying to join the EU for years without success.

European officials have said Ukraine has already adopted about 70% of EU rules and standards. Still, they have also pointed to corruption and the need for deep political and economic reforms. “Significant efforts will be needed, especially in the fight against corruption and establishing an effective rule of law,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “But I am convinced that Ukraine’s (post-war) reconstruction offers opportunities to take important steps forward.”

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