The European Union opens its doors to Ukraine

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Almost four months after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has closed ranks with the eastern country and agreed in record time to recognize it as a candidate for the club, even knowing that Kyiv has a lot to do before opening hypothetical accession talks.

“Agreement. The European Council has just decided [conceder] candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. A historic moment,” tweeted the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. “Our future is united,” Michel said in the message to the leaders of both countries, Volodímir Zelenski and Maia Sandu. Moments after adopting the decision, the leaders of the Twenty-seven have connected by videoconference to personally transmit the decision to President Zelensky.

Recognition of candidate status

It is the previous and necessary step to a hypothetical opening of accession negotiations

The cold bureaucratic language does not, however, reflect the symbolism of the decision. The European Council “invites the Commission to report on the fulfillment of the conditions specified in its opinions” on both countries, affirms the draft conclusions of the meeting of EU Heads of State and Government that is being held today in Brussels . The recognition of the status of candidate is the previous and necessary step to a hypothetical opening of accession negotiations that today seem distant.

“>

Agreement. #EUCO has just decided EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

A historic moment.

Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU.

congratulations @ZelenskyyUa and @sandumaiamd and the people of Ukraine 🇺🇦 and 🇲🇩

Our future is together.

— CharlesMichel (@CharlesMichel) June 23, 2022 “>

“Today is a good day for Europe,” tweeted the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, promoter of the opinion in favor of Kyiv. The passage of the European Council “will strengthen Ukraine and will strengthen Europe. It is a decision in favor of freedom and democracy and it places us in the right place in history”, said the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, shortly before the Heads of State and Government, after A long discussion about the security situation on the continent and the club’s expansion process formalized the decision.

Opening the doors of the EU to Ukraine is intended, on the one hand, to be a message to Russia in favor of defending Kyiv’s right to national sovereignty and against its theories about the spheres of influence on the continent. At the same time, it wants to be an attempt to show confidence in the future of the club, despite the fact that the EU has today examined with unsatisfactory balance the progress in the accession process of half a dozen Balkan countries, which have not been silent your frustration with the current blockade. Until February 24, the hypothetical candidacy for Ukraine’s accession to the EU barely enjoyed support within the community club, which already had difficulties in 2016 to ratify the Association Agreement with the country, the pact that two years ago instigated the Maidan pro-European movement.

The war changed everything. And last week the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, took the initiative and transformed the ambiguity of Germany and France towards the idea into a resounding support with which the EU would express its solidarity with Ukraine despite the fact that the process that is now beginning has an uncertain ending. Moscow has not yet reacted to the decision, although in recent days President Vladimir Putin dismissed Ukraine’s interest in moving closer to the EU and reiterated his opposition to joining the Atlantic Alliance.

The recognition of Ukraine as a candidate country does not have any immediate practical consequences. “The Council will decide on future steps when all these conditions are fulfilled”, recall the conclusions referring to the reforms that the European Commission advised Kyiv to undertake last week to start the process. The report calls, for example, to implement the new laws to ensure impartiality in the appointment of judges and prosecutors as well as to launch the newly created anti-corruption body and fully implement the law to curtail the power of the oligarchs.

The draft conclusions of the summit also evoke the “full and unequivocal commitment of the EU to the prospect of accession of the Western Balkans” and calls for “accelerating” the process, a formulation that reflects in particular the frustration with the veto that Bulgaria maintains on the start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia on domestic political issues. The crisis in the Bulgarian government once again prevented these two countries from clearing the way, respectively 17 and 8 years after they were declared candidates. His experience explains the comment that the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, has dedicated to the Ukrainians: “Better not to have illusions”.

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