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A realistic path for ukraine’s accession to the EU


Any new candidate country wishing to join the EU faces many challenges. This is especially true if the candidate country comes from the former communist bloc, has a GDP below the EU average and/or is involved in long-standing conflicts. On top of this, the EU itself has internal problems and cannot agree on its future and the prospects for enlargement. However, it may be premature to say that enlargement is over. As Europe’s response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine shows, despite its many internal problems, the EU has sharp geopolitical teeth. But it would be a gross understatement to describe the road as bumpy for Ukraine, which is engaged in a protracted war with a nuclear power and faces the difficult challenges of post-war reconstruction while trying to implement reforms and become an EU member.

And yet, the EU and Ukraine have embarked on this journey together. A particularly decisive step was taken when Ukraine (and Moldova) were granted candidate status in June 2022. This path aims to achieve the higher goals of the 2014 Euromaidan or Revolution of Dignity and to find a proper strategic place for Ukraine in Euro-Atlantic structures that will give a new meaning to “Europe” and a new purpose to the EU. While the path itself is uncertain, the conditions are fairly clear (at least on paper, although politics may follow a different logic), namely, the rule of law and democratic reforms, as well as the implementation of EU legislation. To begin with, at least seven key conditions set out in the EU’s decision to grant Ukraine candidate status should be met.

The EU is in the midst of a heated debate about the possibility of opening accession negotiations at the end of 2023. Member states remain divided between two positions: some are reluctant to shorten the accession path (especially with regard to Ukraine and while the war is ongoing) at a time when the European Union is in dire need of internal reform, while others are eager to use the political momentum to ensure that Ukraine does not end up in an endless queue of candidate countries, that reforms in the country do not stall, and that the commitment to fighting the war does not wane.


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