Ukrainian Centre for European Policy: A Realistic Path Towards Ukraine’s Accession to the EU

2023-06-27 | Expert publications, EU integration

For any new candidate aspiring to join the EU nowadays, the options are not plentiful, and the path is rocky – certainly if candidates come from the former communist bloc, are below the EU GDP average and/or hobbled with perennial conflicts. The EU too struggles with itself, torn about its future and that of enlargement. Claims of enlargement being dead may prove premature though, and, as its response to the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine shows, the EU does have sharp geopolitical teeth in spite of its many internal problems. Yet for Ukraine, fighting a long war with a nuclear power and facing daunting challenges of postwar reconstruction, while it also aims to reform and become an EU member, a rocky path is an understatement.

And yet, most decisively in 2022, when the candidate status was granted to Ukraine (and Moldova) last June, the EU and Ukraine embarked together on this path. A path which to a great extent aims to achieve the higher goals of the Euromaidan or Revolution of Dignity (2014) and settle for good Ukraine’s rightful strategic place in the Euro-Atlantic structures – while, in the process, providing new meaning to “Europe” and purpose to the EU. The road is uncertain, but the conditions are relatively clear (at least on paper, even if politics might follow other rationales): namely, fundamental rule of law and democratic reforms, implementation of the EU acquis, etc. For starters, at the very minimum, this implies fulfilling 7 key conditions laid out in the EU decision granting candidate status to Ukraine.

The debate is growing in the EU on whether to green-light the opening of accession negotiations in late 2023. Member states remain torn between reluctance to tolerate shortcuts to the EU (always, but especially with Ukraine and as long as the war rages on) at a time when internal reform in the Union seems wanting, while others are keen to seize the political momentum, lest Ukraine should forever languish in the never-ending queue of candidate countries, reforms whither and war moral suffers too.

The full study can be accessed here.