European Union flag. (Source: EU/Twitter)
Brussels: EU leaders were set on Thursday to make Ukraine a candidate for membership in the 27-nation bloc, the first step in a potentially years-long process that could further pull the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and push it to the West. can bind more closely.
Several diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the EU summit in Brussels, predicted that Ukraine would receive the necessary unanimous approval for candidate status. Ukraine submitted its application on 24 February, just days after the Russian invasion.
“It will strengthen Ukraine, it will strengthen Europe. It is a decision of freedom and democracy and puts us on the right side of history,” said the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, before the announcement. A decision in favor of Ukraine on Thursday Unusually fast for the EU.
But the largest war in Europe since World War II and Ukraine’s request for a fast-track idea exacerbated the bloc’s slow approach to expansion.
The European Parliament backed Ukraine’s bid hours before the summit began, passing a resolution calling on EU governments to “proceed without delay” and to “fulfill their historic responsibility”.
EU nations have united to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s aggression with money and weapons, while adopting unprecedented economic sanctions against the Kremlin. EU candidate status does not confer an automatic right to join the bloc and does not provide an immediate security guarantee.
Once a country acquires membership, however, it is covered under the Treaty Clause of the European Union which states that if a member is the victim of an armed invasion, the other EU country shall in every way in its power obliged to help.
The main benefits from EU membership, however, are economic, as it provides access to a market of 450 million consumers with free movement of labour, goods, services and capital. Ukraine has long wanted to join NATO, but the military alliance has not been an invitation, partly because of government corruption, shortcomings in the country’s defense establishment and its disputed borders.
Before the war began, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO, which he denounced for spreading eastward toward Russia’s border. But earlier this month, he appeared not bothered by Ukraine’s determination to get closer to the European Union, saying it was not a military agreement and thus “we have no objection”.
To obtain membership, Ukraine must meet a wide range of political and economic conditions, including the adoption of certain democratic principles.
This process can take years, maybe decades. For example, Turkey applied for membership in 1987, received candidate status in 1999, and had to wait until 2005 to begin negotiations for actual admission. Only one of the more than 30 negotiation “chapters” has been completed in years, and the whole process is at a standstill as a result of various disputes between the EU and Turkey.
Similarly, many Balkan countries have been trying to join the European Union for many years without any success. European officials have said Ukraine has already adopted about 70 percent of EU rules and standards, but they have also pointed to corruption and the need for deeper political and economic reforms in the country.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Cru said, “considerable efforts will be needed, especially in the fight against corruption and in establishing an effective rule of law.”
“But I believe that it is the (post-war) reconstruction of Ukraine that will provide opportunities to take important steps forward.”
EU leaders were set to debate candidate status for Moldova, a small, non-NATO country bordering Ukraine, on Thursday.
Read also: Russia advances on the war front in eastern Ukraine