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May 19, 2022
Will Ukraine Join The EU? After Zelensky Signs Membership Application, Here’s What Could Come Next

Will Ukraine Join The EU? After Zelensky Signs Membership Application, Here’s What Could Come Next

Ukraine has completed its membership questionnaire in its early bid to join the European Union, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said Sunday, after Zelensky asked the bloc to move swiftly to admit Ukraine as a member—here’s what the process of joining the EU could look like from here as European leaders debate admitting Ukraine.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at the European Council in Brussels on June 5, 2019.

AFP via Getty Images

Key Facts

Ihor Zhovkva told Ukraine’s public broadcaster the government had finished its EU questionnaire, Reuters reports, after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen personally delivered it to Zelensky on April 8 in Kyiv.

Von der Leyen said when she delivered the questionnaire that once Ukraine submitted it, it would be “I think a matter of weeks” before the European Commission issues its opinion on whether Ukraine’s membership should move forward—rather than years, as it typically takes.

The questionnaire is used to determine whether a country is ready to join the EU, and if the European Commission recommends it for membership—which Reuters reports is likely to happen in June for Ukraine—the country becomes an official candidate for membership and moves on to beginning formal negotiations.

All EU member countries must agree on a framework for the negotiations—which are themselves a lengthy process that can take years—and then must ratify the country’s treaty once negotiations are completed to finish the membership process.

Ukraine and leaders of some eastern European countries have asked for it to be admitted quicker under a “new special procedure,” but other European leaders have pushed back on that, and the European Council said in a March statement only that they would move “without delay” on Ukraine’s membership process.

Ukraine will get some benefits once it’s declared a candidate for EU membership, like financial assistance to help support reforms in the country and fulfilling the obligations of its eventual EU membership.

Joining the EU could immediately help Ukraine militarily, as EU members are bound by a mutual defense clause that requires other members to aid a country if it’s “the victim of armed aggression on its territory.” Admission to the bloc would also benefit Ukraine economically and give them additional benefits, like Ukrainians having free movement throughout the bloc and being granted the variety of rights afforded to EU citizens. Even the EU just moving forward with Ukraine’s application could be beneficial, former European leaders noted in an op-ed through the Atlantic Council, saying it would be “a bold, courageous, and meaningful political statement” and send a message to Moscow.

What To Watch For
The European Council is scheduled to meet June 23-24 and is expected to issue its opinion on Ukraine’s membership then and declare the country a candidate for EU membership, Reuters reports. “We expect the recommendation … to be positive, and then the ball will be on the side of the EU member states,” Zhovkva said Sunday, as reported by Reuters. Even though Ukraine’s process is expected to be somewhat speedier than that of other countries, it still is likely to be a lengthy one—Bloomberg notes it took Croatia, the most recent EU member, 10 years to join.

Crucial Quote
“Pending [the European Commission’s recommendation] and without delay, we will further strengthen our bonds and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine in pursuing its European path,” the heads of government in the European Council said in a March 10 statement about Ukraine’s EU membership. “Ukraine belongs to our European family.”

Key Background
Joining the EU has been a longstanding goal for Ukraine, with Zelensky telling Politico in 2020 that “Ukrainians want to live in European Ukraine.” Zelensky formally submitted the country’s application for EU membership on February 28 days after Russia invaded the country, saying Ukraine’s “goal is to be with all Europeans, and, most importantly, to be equal.” The country already has an association agreement with the EU in place that allows for free trade and “promotes deeper political ties,” but Reuters notes its efforts to join the EU have been stymied by Russia’s opposition to Ukraine becoming a member. The bloc has previously shied away from membership discussions “so as not to antagonize Moscow,” Reuters reports—something that’s now less of an issue as the EU and the West move to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The EU has already imposed significant sanctions on Russia and lent its support to Ukraine through other measures, such as funding and delivering weapons to Ukraine for the first time in the bloc’s history and directing members to give Ukrainian refugees temporary asylum for up to three years. The Kremlin has hit back at the EU and its “hostile” actions, criticizing its move to arm Ukraine with weapons in February as “dangerous and destabilizing.”

Further Reading
Ukraine completes questionnaire for EU membership (Reuters)

EU chief promises speeded up process for Ukraine to seek membership (Reuters)

Explainer: What’s in an EU membership questionnaire? (Emerging Europe)

Ukraine is one of us and we want them in EU, Ursula von der Leyen tells Euronews (Euronews)

Ukraine wants to join the EU. Here’s how that would work (NPR)

Read More

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