Kyiv was granted the status of a candidate for EU membership. Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel was one of the first to announce granting Ukraine and Moldova the status of EU candidate.
"Historic moment and a signal of hope for the Ukranian people," he commented on Twitter.
The President of the European Council Charles Michel confirmed it.
"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," he stressed, congratulating Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Maia Sandu, and the peoples of Ukraine and Moldova.
Reforms by the end of the year and EU funds
On the afternoon of June 23, even before the voting at the European Council summit, the European Parliament approved considering the issue of granting Ukraine the status of an EU candidate. Almost a record number of MPs voted "in favour" — 529 MPs, 45 were against, and 14 did not vote.
Later, the European Council endorsed the decision after several protracted discussions: according to Rikard Jozwiak, editor of Radio Free Europe, the reason was the discussions on the initiative of Hungary to grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But finally, all 27 EU leaders gave the green light to Kyiv and Chisinau.
But finally, all 27 EU leaders gave the green light to Kyiv and Chisinau.
Obtaining the status, however, does not mean that Ukrainians, especially the country's leadership, can now relax and wait for the accession. The status itself was granted to us on the terms of implementing reforms, and progress should be achieved by the end of 2022.
Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Olha Stefanyshina says that it is possible to carry out all the steps, and a roadmap is already being prepared, and then it will be approved by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
She also assures that the status of a candidate is not only an important political signal: it will give Ukraine access to EU structural funds, and this is already about funds for the Ukrainian economy recovery. It could be hundreds of billions of euros, the official assures. What conditions must Ukraine fulfill so that its status is not taken away?
Seven conditions for Kyiv from Europe
On June 17, the European Commission recommended that the EU grant Ukraine a candidate status for accession. At the same time, it put forward seven points of seven steps that Kyiv must carry out — not before, but after obtaining a candidacy, so as not to lose it.
- Step 1. Constitutional Court reform
This refers to establishing a selection procedure for judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, and the preliminary selection should assess the reputation and professional skills of judges in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
- Step 2. Further judicial reform
Kyiv must finalize vetting of candidates for membership in the High Council of Justice and the High Qualifications Commission of Judges.
- Step 3. Fighting corruption: Posts
This paragraph is about:
- appointing the head of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office;
- holding a competition for the position of the NABU Director;
In addition, Ukraine must finally bring charges and pronounce real sentences of corrupt officials.
- Step 4. Fighting money laundering
Europe requires Ukraine to bring its money laundering legislation in compliance with international standards. In addition, Kyiv must approve a strategic plan for reforming the law enforcement sector.
- Step 5. Anti-oligarch legislation
This refers to a new anti-oligarchic legislation that meets the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
- Step 6. Audiovisual legislation
Ukraine must approve a new media law that would meet EU standards (this, obviously, refers to copyright and the fight against piracy).
- Step 7. New legislation on national minorities
Kyiv must amend the legislation on national minorities on the Venice Commission recommendations. This refers to the law on education and training in minority languages from 2017 — because of it, there was a high-profile scandal between Hungary and Ukraine. Kyiv will have to yield here.
Fast-track support over Russia’s attack
If before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, even Ukraine's candidacy for the EU seemed a distant prospect, then already on February 26, 2022, the first voices of support appeared.
In particular, at that time Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, advocated a fast-track path for Kyiv.
And already on February 27, Janez Janša and Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Ministers of Slovenia and Poland, wrote a letter to Charles Michel, President of the European Council, with a plan for the rapid integration of Ukraine into the EU by 2030.
Moreover, Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia, also proposed a special procedure for Ukraine’s accession.
Already on March 1, 2022, an open letter from the Presidents of eight EU member states appeared with a call to immediately grant Ukraine candidate status. The following countries signed the letters:
- Czech Republic;
On the same day, Ukraine's membership in the EU, a fast-track one, by the way, was supported by Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó. Later, on March 9, the Polish Senate issued a resolution with a similar appeal to the EU.
Votes against and the Netherlands’ demands
Three months after the start of a full-scale war, the Ukrainian government launched a communication campaign in support of EU accession titled Embrace Ukraine. Strengthen the Union.
At the same time, the Netherlands and Denmark opposed granting Ukraine candidate status, while Germany proposed granting the status on certain conditions that we are getting now.
Nevertheless, on June 16, 2022, the leaders of Germany, Italy, France, and Romania visited Kyiv and called for Ukraine to be granted candidate status immediately.
On June 17, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that the Danish government was ready to support Kyiv's European integration course if the European Commission provided a positive recommendation.
The Netherlands also surrendered, but demanded that the conditions for Ukraine's further advancement into the EU be thoroughly spelled out.
Ukraine is no longer "odd fellows"
Granting Ukraine candidate status is a historic decision signaling to Russia that it can no longer claim a sphere of influence over its eastern neighbor, said Vsevolod Chentsov, the head of the Ukrainian mission to the EU, quoted by The Guardian.
He stressed that for many years Ukraine had been seen as a bridge or a buffer state rather than a potential member, and the candidacy itself makes it clear that this is no longer the case.
"We need this clarity to support the Ukrainian army, Ukrainian society, morally, psychologically, and to get the clear feeling and understanding of the direction of movement for Ukraine."
The diplomat believes that it was precisely the fact that Europeans had been able to know and understand Ukrainians more after the outbreak of the invasion on February 24 that helped change Europe's perception of whether Ukraine could join the bloc:
"It’s not a strange country, we are not strange people. We are the same, we are sharing the same understanding of this world."
According to a poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, 57% of Europeans support Ukraine's membership bid. Poles support us the most (70% are in favour). We have slightly less support in Germany (48%), France (47%), and Italy (46%), but there are even fewer votes against.
Ze’s warning and Russia, goodbye
At the same time, Russia will not "present" candidacy to Ukraine just like that: Volodymyr Zelenskyy has already warned the EU that one should expect increased hostilities from the Kremlin during the week of negotiations on Kyiv’s new status.
Chentsov, for his part, stressed that it would be a mistake to make decisions based on Moscow’s thinking and actions.
The ambassador admitted that it would take some time for Ukraine to join the bloc and that it has yet to implement much-needed reforms:
"We understand that we have to implement those reforms first of all, for Ukraine, not for the EU."
The BBC notes that while there are financial benefits to joining the EU and even becoming a candidate, Ukraine's main motive is not an economic one.
This opinion was expressed by Dr. Zach Paikin from the Centre of European Policy Studies think tank in Brussels:
"EU membership would establish Ukraine firmly as an independent, sovereign European state, and not merely part of the Russian world."
- We have already reported about the support and doubts about Ukraine's candidacy for the EU among the member countries of the bloc.
- We have also explained what concerns European countries have, in particular, because of the UK leaving the EU and problems with Hungary.