As Europe stands at a crossroads, Ukraine’s journey towards European Union (EU) membership takes center stage. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s forthcoming report on Ukraine’s progress towards EU membership, set to be published this week, has heightened expectations. The European Union executive is likely to recommend taking Ukraine one step closer to becoming an EU member, a coveted prize for Kyiv, as weariness creeps in nearly two years after Russia’s invasion.
Progress and Praise
During her recent visit to Kyiv, von der Leyen commended Ukraine for making significant headway. She praised Ukraine for its dedication to reforms, justice system improvements, efforts to rein in oligarchs, and tackling money laundering. The Commission’s report is expected to reflect Ukraine’s progress, particularly in meeting two out of seven conditions set by the EU to initiate membership talks.
Critical Decision in December
The report and recommendation will play a crucial role in the decision to be made by the EU’s national leaders in December. This decision will determine whether formal membership negotiations with Kyiv can begin. However, it’s important to note that such negotiations can take several years, as candidates must meet extensive legal and economic criteria before joining the EU. Furthermore, the EU is reluctant to admit a country embroiled in an ongoing conflict.
Importance of Western Integration
Despite the challenges, advancing Western integration remains a top priority for Ukraine. With troops facing battle fatigue and concerns about the future of vital US military aid, Ukraine sees EU membership as a beacon of hope and a means to strengthen its geopolitical position.
The Commission’s report is expected to outline the remaining steps Ukraine needs to take to move closer to EU membership, primarily focused on fighting corruption and safeguarding minority rights. President Zelensky expressed confidence in Ukraine’s ability to fulfill these conditions, emphasizing the positive impact it would have on Ukrainian society and troops. He believes that Ukraine’s eventual EU membership would strengthen both the country and the European Union as a whole.
Unified Vision for Europe
Zelensky’s vision extends beyond Ukraine. He envisions a Europe without “grey geopolitical zones,” emphasizing the need for a new basis for growth and development in Ukraine and all European countries. The assurance of economic and social security for Ukrainian citizens is a driving force behind this aspiration.
Germany’s foreign minister has expressed confidence that the EU will support Ukraine’s bid for membership. Germany’s backing is crucial for Ukraine’s aspirations. While the green light is expected, Ukraine is encouraged to do more to combat corruption and secure minority rights, addressing concerns raised by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Moldova and Georgia
The Commission’s report also covers other EU hopefuls, including Moldova and Georgia. Moldova, despite facing the challenges of Russia’s aggression, has demonstrated resilience and commitment to progress its EU agenda. This commitment is acknowledged in the draft report, with Moldova expected to receive a conditional positive recommendation along with Ukraine.
However, the situation is different for Georgia, which has not yet satisfied the 12 conditions required to attain candidate country status. Despite this, Tbilisi still enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Orban and may find a path forward on its EU journey. This highlights the EU’s ongoing struggle for influence with Russia in Eastern Europe.