Faced with an existential threat, Ukraine is seeking ‘immediate’ EU membership – but can the bloc achieve it?

President Volodymyr Zelensky requested that Ukraine be granted EU membership “through a new special procedure” and signed a formal application to join. But despite the stated support of many members of the European Parliament, heads of state and even the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the support is largely symbolic; The EU accession process is long and complex and requires the unanimous approval of all 27 member states.

Under fire from Russian forces and faced with an existential threat, Ukraine took steps to establish itself in the rest of Europe. President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a decision on Ukraine’s membership to be made “finally” at the weekend before formally signing the EU membership application on Monday and pleaded for his country to speed up its efforts to join the bloc.

“We ask the European Union for Ukraine’s immediate accession through a new special procedure,” he said via a video link from Kyiv, as Russian forces were pushing into several areas of Ukraine. “Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing. I’m sure it’s fair. I’m sure it’s possible.”

“Prove that you are with us. Pray to him to prove that you will not let us go.

In an interview with Euronews TV published on Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed support for Ukraine’s membership but did not address calls for rapid accession. “They are one of us and we want them to come in,” she said.

In an open letter published later that day, the presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia called on EU institutions to act “to grant Ukraine … the status of a candidate country to join the EU and open the negotiation process.”

But neither von der Leyen nor the heads of EU member states have the power to grant EU candidate status or speed up the membership process. Such decisions must be agreed unanimously by all 27 member states, which – especially in recent years – have found themselves in sharp disagreement over a range of issues, including enlargement.

Other EU officials have been more cautious in their response to Ukrainian aspirations. German Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock, at a press conference in Berlin on Monday, emphasized that the path to EU membership could be long and arduous.

“[J]Joining the European Union is not something that can be done in a few months… It involves an intense and far-reaching transformation process.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that while Europe as a whole faces an “existential threat” from Russia’s regression to the “law of the jungle”, Ukraine’s EU membership could take “many years”.

Five countries currently have an official EU nomination: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. Turkey’s bid has faltered for years amid a domestic political downturn, and Montenegro and Serbia have been in accession talks since 2012 and 2014, respectively. Albania and North Macedonia have been approved for membership talks in 2020 but have yet to start.

Is “special procedure” applicable? Despite the challenges, could the war in Ukraine act as a catalyst for accelerating Kyiv’s accession to the European Union? invented. This would include the grueling project of amending EU treaties, a project that could take several years.

The bloc should also have time to examine every aspect of Ukrainian legislation – from the environment to the rule of law to the performance of the economy, including the regulation of agricultural products and manufacturing – to determine how they are aligned with EU law.

“We clearly see that this solution is not viable in the short term,” said Pascal Guanin, director general of the Robert Schumann Foundation, a European think tank. “In fact, we will not be able to move forward in Ukraine faster than other member states. From experience, we know that it takes about 10 years” to get EU membership.

Moreover, immediate membership would have the effect of pushing the EU immediately into a state of war, writes Jean Quatrimer, the European correspondent for the French newspaper Liberation, noting that the bloc’s founding Treaty of Lisbon contains a “mutual aid clause” – much like the NATO article 5- Which would put the European Union in an immediate state of war with Russia.

A long and complex process Ukraine will likely have no choice but to go through the three main stages of the standard accession process: First, Ukraine’s application for official candidate status must be accepted and a framework for negotiations must be unanimously approved by the European Council. .

After reaching the status of a candidate, negotiations can begin – a cumbersome and complex procedure. Ukraine will need to comply with policy criteria set out in 35 “negotiating chapters” to join the EU that cover most sectors of governance, from energy to taxation to social policy. Moreover, negotiations on any chapter are closed only when “every government in the European Union is satisfied with the candidate’s progress in this policy area”.

The third and final stage includes the signing of an accession treaty between the member states and the candidate country, the treaty must be approved by the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Parliament; signed by representatives of all existing EU countries; And every EU member state ratified it according to its own constitutional rules (parliamentary vote, referendum, etc.).

Closer to the EU fold, after imposing unprecedented heavy economic sanctions on Moscow and drawing up plans to ship arms, medical equipment and financial aid to Ukraine, European institutions want to continue to reaffirm their solidarity with Kyiv.

Antoine Guerry, spokesperson for the European Parliament’s Renewing Europe Group Chair, Stefan Sigourny, said: “What EU MPs and European leaders are doing now is something that the Ukrainians have been hoping for, and they have noticed. It is the least we can do for Europe’s institutions and elected representatives to be there in this. Historic moment.

But even while waiting for an official EU candidate to be placed, Ukraine could be more closely integrated into European institutions. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a political bloc in the European Parliament, announced on Tuesday that Sloha Narudo, the party founded by Zelensky, had been made a member.

Ukraine first tried to take decisive steps toward Brussels in 2013 by signing an association agreement with the European Union, an agreement unilaterally thwarted by the then pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. An Association Agreement is often considered a precursor to joining the European Union.

Yanukovych’s move sparked mass pro-EU street protests for the Maidan Revolution, which eventually led to his ouster.

An association agreement, including a free trade agreement, was finally signed the following year under former president Petro Poroshenko, setting off alarm bells in Moscow.

“The association agreement sparked an invasion of Maadan but also the first of Crimea,” Jerry said, adding, “This suggests that the problem for Russia and Vladimir Putin is not NATO” but Ukraine’s moves toward a more European future.

The European Parliament on Tuesday adopted a non-binding resolution calling on EU members to work towards granting Ukraine EU candidate status, with 637 votes in favour, 13 against and 26 abstentions. The EU Single Market is modeled on the existing Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

Any progress on this front is sure to increase the animosity of the Kremlin. In a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, Putin outlined the conditions for Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine, including “recognition of Crimea as Russian territory,” “de-Nazification” of the Ukrainian government and “neutral status” for Russia. Ukraine.

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