Ukraine is set to be approved as a European Union (EU) candidate at a Brussels summit on Thursday, June 23, 2022, after the European Commission gave the green light.
Ukraine applied days after the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, and the process has since moved at a record speed. Ukrainian Ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, told the media that it would be a psychological boost for Ukrainians. But Chentsov admitted that the “real integration” could only start when the war was over.
Candidate status is the first official step toward EU membership and France disclosed this week that there was “total consensus” on Ukraine. But it can take many years to join and there’s no guarantee of success.
The Western Balkan countries of Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, have been candidate countries for years, in some cases, for over a decade. However, countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for candidacy in 2016 but have still not succeeded in becoming candidates yet.
Build on Existing Close Ties
Reports suggested that EU leaders are meeting their Western Balkan counterparts on Thursday, June 23, 2022, morning, ahead of the main summit, to “build on the existing close ties”, but discussions are expected to be difficult. Some member states are pushing for Bosnia to be given candidate status, although that is not expected. However, some voices are of the hopes that North Macedonia and Albania may make progress.
“We do not accept the idea of the queue,” Ukraine’s envoy told reporters, arguing that Kyiv’s eagerness could set an example to other states.
“Every state has its road map, has its path. And if there is political will, if there is support of society [and] business operators to move forward to implement reform in a bold and fast way, why should we wait?”Ukraine’s envoy
Moldova’s application is also recommended for conditional approval while Georgia is set to be turned down, although the European Commission said the country could belong to the EU in “due time”. More than 100,000 people attended a rally on (Monday, June 20, 2022) night in the Georgian capital, while basing on that to appeal for candidate status.
Several EU states have agreed to back Ukraine’s candidacy, provided conditions are attached before accession negotiations can begin, including judicial and anti-corruption reforms.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, insisted some reforms can take place, even while the country is at war and not in control of its whole territory. He insisted that “We are not starting from scratch”, pointing to work carried out since the EU and Ukraine signed an association agreement in 2014.
But it would be “logical” to carry out bigger reforms once the situation on the ground became more stable, he added. Some EU diplomats have previously voiced concerns that giving candidate status could offer Ukraine false hope.
French President, Emmanuel Macron, said in May 2022 that the prospect of membership was decades away and the NATO Secretary-General warned the conflict could last years. But Mr. Chentsov said no one had a crystal ball and he felt there is a will “to help Ukraine to get there”.