Updated 23.06.2022 at 20:54
- Ukrainian President Zelensky has been pushing his country into the EU for almost every day for months.
- The first step has now been taken: Ukraine is a candidate for EU accession.
- Zelensky praised his country’s candidate status in the EU as a “historic moment”.
- But the road to membership is likely to be a long one.
The European Union has officially included Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia, among the candidate countries. In addition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his colleagues decided to grant Moldova candidate status at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. Georgia has been offered this status once certain reforms have been completed.
Council President Charles Michel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of a “historic moment”. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today is a good day for Europe.” Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are part of the European family. In these turbulent times, there can be no better sign of hope for the citizens of these countries. “I am convinced that the decision we have made today strengthens us all,” von der Leyen said. This move shows the world once again that the EU is united in its face against external threats.
Zelensky: “Ukraine’s future lies in the EU”
Chancellor Scholz also congratulated Ukraine and Moldova. “27 Yes!” He wrote on Twitter. “For good cooperation in the European family!” French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of a “political gesture”.
Selensky himself was lively connected with the summit after the decision. He wrote on Twitter: “Ukraine’s future lies in the EU.”
By a unanimous decision, the 27 EU Member States recognize the countries’ efforts to gain accession prospects and want to encourage them to continue on the path with determination. In view of the Russian war against his country, Selensky in particular has repeatedly called for such an EU message – also to show his country’s more than 40 million people that the struggle for freedom and democracy makes sense.
At the start of the EU summit in Brussels, Chancellor Scholz again called for Ukraine to become a candidate for membership. The SPD politician spoke of a “historic” meeting, but also called for reforms in the European Union that would allow for the admission of new members. According to him, the EU must “expand”. This also includes the abolition of the unanimity principle for some decisions.
Accession negotiations will not begin until further reform requirements are met
Candidate status does not guarantee rapid accession to the EU. According to the European Commission’s recommendation, the EU’s accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova should start only after they meet further reform requirements. These are judicial reforms and a stronger fight against corruption. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced: “We are full of energy to follow the path to membership as soon as possible.”
The case of Turkey shows that the accession process can also end in a dead end. The country has had candidate status since 1999. However, EU accession negotiations, which began in 2005, have been suspended for years due to unsatisfactory developments in the country from the point of view of Brussels.
The countries of the Western Balkans, which are also hoping to join the EU, are becoming increasingly frustrated. EU countries Bulgaria has been blocking accession talks with Northern Macedonia and Albania for more than a year because Northern Macedonia has refused to respond to demands regarding minorities, history and language. Attempts to resolve the blockade in time for the Western Balkans meeting on the sidelines of the EU summit have failed. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia were also represented there.
Almost four months ago, shortly after the start of the Russian attack, Ukraine applied to join the EU. Shortly afterwards, Moldova’s and Georgia’s small neighbors in south-eastern Europe also applied for membership. Georgia, with a population of around 3.7 million, will only become a candidate country if it meets further reform requirements. According to the European Commission, it is currently significantly more unstable than Moldova, which has a population of around 2.6 million, and Ukraine. (dpa / fra)
According to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), the situation in Ukraine shows that military investment and humanitarian aid are not in conflict, but must be complementary. She paid more attention to what Ukraine urgently needs now.