Brussels endorses that Ukraine begins negotiating its accession to the EU in 2024 | International
Brussels once again steps on the accelerator for the next major enlargement of the EU, in one more step to end these gray geographical areas, under threat of imperialist appetite and the influence of Russia and other actors, and with the focus on its own security of the community club. The European Commission recommended this Wednesday that the European Council - the Member States, which have the final say - open EU accession talks with Ukraine at the beginning of next year, although only if Kiev - which has been facing more than 600 days Russian aggression—earlier completes the reforms required to get closer to European standards. Even if the process formally begins in 2024, actual entry may take years.
In a further move to expand towards Eastern Europe, which the Kremlin has tried for decades at all costs to keep under its influence, Brussels also recommends opening the integration dialogue with Moldova. It has also designated Georgia as a candidate country, which will now have to make enormous changes.
“Enlargement is a vital policy for the European Union,” launched the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at a press conference in the community capital. “Completing our Union is the call of history, it is the natural horizon of the EU,” added the German, who defined the announcement as “historic.” Brussels has also shown itself willing to “accelerate” the accession processes and guarantee that the next enlargement is “a catalyst for progress,” she says in a political communication made public this Wednesday.
The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration, Olha Stefanishyna, has expressed satisfaction with the Brussels examination and the recommendation. “The decision of the European Commission is, ultimately, very positive, because it demonstrates the progress that Ukraine has achieved,” she tells EL PAIS. “It is not a political recommendation, it is an important signal for Ukraine that the dynamics and commitment that we have been showing during the year and a half after becoming a candidate lead to the result,” she believes. “Ukraine does not ask for discounts or special treatment, especially because of the war,” adds Stefanishyna.
The Government of Volodymyr Zelensky must now rush to complete the pending issues in three major chapters: reform its law on linguistic minorities (Hungarian, Romanian and Russian) to reinforce the teaching of these languages in secondary education and in the media, approve a transparency law lobbies to limit the influence of oligarchs and provide more resources to the instruments that fight corruption. This is stated in the report on the country's progress on its path towards the EU, which EL PAÍS published.
Brussels believes that the changes may be ready in March 2024, according to community sources. And on that date, he will analyze the progress again. The heads of State and Government of the Twenty-seven will analyze the situation at their December meeting with the Commission's report on their progress in hand. And various sources in Brussels anticipate that the decision will be positive, although with caveats. There may be some obstacles: Hungary, one of the countries most sympathetic to Russia in the EU, has stressed that it will not say yes to the opening of negotiations if the teaching of that language is not increased in areas where a significant Hungarian minority lives.
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The EU insists that the path to accession cannot have shortcuts and is a process based on the merit of the candidate. But the start of integration talks is an eminently political decision, a symbol, just as the first step was, the designation of Ukraine as a candidate country in June 2022, just a few months after Volodymyr Zelensky's Government presented the entry request.
Above all, it would be a boost for kyiv when the battle front seems stagnant, fatigue among citizens is beginning to be felt, and concern about the United States withdrawing its economic support increases. All with the elections for the White House on the horizon, in a year, and the possibility of the return of Donald Trump. “We want to send a clear message of support to Ukraine,” Von der Leyen insisted.
From kyiv, the Ukrainian president has praised Brussels' decision, despite the fact that the Commission still points out that it must complete several tasks. “This is a strong and historic step that paves the way towards a stronger EU with Ukraine as a member,” Zelensky said on social media. This month marks 10 years since the then Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, pro-Moscow, withdrew the eastern country from the association agreement with the EU, after pressure from Moscow. That gesture, together with anger over rampant corruption in the Administration, sparked the historic pro-European and pro-democracy protests on the Maidan in Kiev, which spread throughout the country. In reaction to Ukraine's westward turn, Russia invaded Crimea, illegally annexing it in 2014, and fueling the war in Donbas.
Now, it is Russia's large-scale war against Ukraine that has spurred the process of EU enlargement towards the east, which will entail major economic, geographical, and social changes. Changes that do not satisfy everyone. Ukraine would become the fifth most populous country in the EU and the poorest member. Their entry will turn the vast majority of members into net contributors; also to those who (like Poland now, for example) are beneficiaries. This, together with the idea that is gaining ground in Brussels that the integration of the invaded country and the rest of the candidates be gradual, has generated tensions with the eastern countries. The Commission is betting, instead of all or nothing, on the candidate country starting to participate in programs and benefit from the common market and certain funds.
We have already seen a preview of what can happen when a new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) begins to be negotiated with the crisis of Ukrainian grain that arrives to the EU without tariffs as a formula to support the invaded country and to fight against the food crisis. global. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia decided to block cereal and other agricultural products because they claim it harms their farmers, despite the fact that the EU has given them compensatory aid. And these days there are new protests on Poland's border with Ukraine, this time by truck drivers who demand the restoration of restrictions prior to the large-scale invasion. Added to the economic issues are the doubts of integrating a country at war.
The institutions are in a certain hurry to move towards the great enlargement, although it may take many years for Ukraine to join the community club. Croatia, which was in a better position, took almost a decade from opening integration talks to becoming a member state.
Furthermore, to absorb Ukraine, Moldova and the candidates from the Balkans - there are several quite advanced countries and Brussels has also recommended this Wednesday to open negotiations with Bosnia, but not in such a hurry - and become a Union of 36 members and more than 500 million inhabitants, the Union must undertake internal reforms in its structure, budget and decision-making mechanism. And not everyone wants to trot down that path.
The signs that the process is rushing are accumulating. The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, the first leader to set a time horizon — 2030 — for the EU to have its homework done and to be able to welcome new partners, has called leaders to several meetings this month, in small groups. in Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen and Zagreb, to discuss that “common future” and how to address it. “We need to be open and pragmatic about the changes and challenges that lie ahead,” says Michel in a letter sent to the leaders of the Twenty-Seven this Wednesday.
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