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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Accession question: EU makes Ukraine and Moldova accession candidates

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For months Ukraine has been pushing every day to get the status of an EU accession candidate – now the time has come. But the road to membership is likely to be long.

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The European Union has officially included Ukraine, which has been attacked by Russia, among the candidate countries. In addition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his colleagues decided on Thursday at an EU summit in Brussels to also grant Moldova the status of an applicant country. Georgia has been offered this status once certain reforms are completed.

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Council President Charles Michel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj spoke of a “historic moment”. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commented: “Today is a good day for Europe.” Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are part of the European family. There could be no better sign of hope for the citizens of these countries in these turbulent times. “I am convinced that the decision we made today will strengthen us all,” von der Leyen said. The move shows the world once again that the EU stands united in the face of external threats.

Chancellor Scholz also congratulated Ukraine and Moldova. “27 Yes!” he wrote on Twitter. «To good cooperation in the European family!» French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of a “political gesture”.

Selenskyj himself was connected live to the summit after the decision. He wrote on Twitter: “The future of Ukraine lies in the EU.”

With the unanimous decision of the 27 member states, the EU recognizes the efforts of the states to gain accession prospects and wants to encourage them to continue on the path with determination. In view of the Russian war against his country, Selenskyj in particular had repeatedly called for such a message from the EU – also to show the more than 40 million inhabitants of his country that the fight for freedom and democracy is worthwhile.

Scholz campaigned urgently

At the start of the EU summit in Brussels, Chancellor Scholz once again urged that Ukraine be made a candidate for membership. The SPD politician spoke of a “historic” meeting, but also called for reforms in the European Union to enable the admission of new members. The EU must make itself “expandable”, he said. This also includes lifting the principle of unanimity for some decisions.

Candidate status is not a guarantee of speedy admission to the EU. According to a recommendation by the EU Commission, EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova should only begin once they have fulfilled further reform requirements. It is about judicial reforms and a stronger fight against corruption. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal announced: “We are full of energy to go the way to membership as quickly as possible.”

The case of Turkey shows that the accession process can also end in a dead end. The country has had candidate status since 1999. However, the EU accession negotiations that began in 2005 have been on hold for years because of the unsatisfactory developments in the country from Brussels’ perspective.

Frustration in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkan states, which are also hoping to join the EU, are becoming increasingly frustrated. EU country Bulgaria has blocked accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania for more than a year because North Macedonia refuses to respond to demands on minorities, history and language. Attempts to solve the blockade in time for a Western Balkans meeting organized on the fringes of the EU summit failed. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia were also represented there.

Almost four months ago, shortly after the start of the Russian attack, Ukraine applied for admission to the EU. Shortly thereafter, the small neighbor Moldova and Georgia in south-eastern Europe also submitted applications for membership. Georgia, which has a population of around 3.7 million, will only be granted candidate status once it has met further reform requirements. According to the EU Commission, it is currently significantly more unstable than Moldova, which has around 2.6 million inhabitants, and the Ukraine.

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Source: Stern

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