Factbox: Ukraine’s journey to becoming a member of the European Union

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet for a working session at the Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 16, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

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BRUSSELS, June 17 (Reuters) – The European Union executive backed on Friday granting official candidate status to Ukraine, a major political shift sparked by the Russian invasion.

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The Commission made the same recommendation for Moldova, but said Georgia was not yet ready to apply. All three have Russian-backed breakaway regions.

Here are some hurdles former Soviet states would have to overcome to join the EU.

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HOURLY

While the recommendation marks a strategic eastward shift in the EU in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Kyiv would likely take years to become a member of the EU at 27, if at all.

Ukraine would be required to carry out economic and political reforms and the bloc is unlikely to host a country in a state of war.

In peacetime, it took 10 years for Poland, a neighbor of Ukraine with a similar population and communist history, from applying for membership in 1994 to actually joining in 2004.

Turkey, on the other hand, obtained official candidate status in 1999 but currently has no prospect of membership.

Membership talks stalled as ties between Ankara and the bloc soured, including over President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on critics following a 2016 coup attempt, and other examples of what the bloc calls the erosion of democracy and the rule of law.

The six Balkan countries’ applications for EU membership have also been complicated in recent years by issues such as migration, organized crime and mutual disagreements in the region.

PROCESSES AND REFORMS

EU leaders will discuss Ukraine’s proposal for Commission membership at a summit in Brussels on June 23-24. They must all agree for the status to be officially granted.

Once that happens, Kyiv will begin negotiations on aligning its laws with those of the EU.

“Ukraine has already implemented about 70% of EU rules, norms and standards. Yet important work remains to be done, on the rule of law, the oligarchs, the fight against corruption and fundamental rights,” said Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.

Moldova – another former communist country now seeking to move away from Moscow’s orbit – was “on a real pro-reform, anti-corruption and European path”, said von der Leyen, but still had “a long way to go”.

Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, must overcome political polarization to push ahead with the reforms needed to move towards EU membership, she said.

For all three, the Commission recommended building independent judiciaries and quality public services, combating organized crime and the excessive influence of vested interests in public life.

POLITICAL WILL

If and when all of this is done, Ukraine’s membership must be approved by all EU governments and the European Parliament, meaning the process can still be politically blocked.

The Netherlands, France and Germany are among the EU countries that have resisted the arrival of new members in recent years.

But Kyiv now secured crucial backing from Paris and Berlin – the bloc’s main powers – when their leaders declared in Kyiv on Thursday that Ukraine belonged to the “European family”. Read more

The new geopolitical momentum since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 marks a leap forward for Kyiv on the road to EU membership – without determining the final outcome.

The EU’s last major enlargement took place in 2004, when eight formerly communist eastern countries – including the Baltic states, Poland and Slovenia – joined. Romania and Bulgaria followed in 2007.

Croatia was the last to join in 2013, but the bloc has lost one since Britain in 2020 became the first country to leave.

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Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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