Will the EU Offer Ukraine Candidate Status and What Defines It?

Friday, 10 June 2022 — , European Pravda

There have been a lot of changes in Ukraine's movement toward EU membership in the previous month. Ukrainian participants in the process radiate cautious optimism and have reason to do so.
Over the past four weeks, there has been a growing number of "Ukrainian skeptics" in the EU has dropped significantly. And the number of those who support Ukraine's integration into the EU has increased.

Anyway, there is still no unanimity. We see today more countries that are waiting for steps from Ukraine. After that, they will be ready to say "yes."

So now historic EU decision for Ukraine depends primarily on the country itself and Kyiv's readiness to realize it until it's not too late.

What Awaits Ukraine in the Nearest Future?

On June 17, the European Commission is expected to deliver its opinion on Ukraine's bid for membership. European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, who visits Kyiv this week, assured EuroPravda that it was firmly decided to consider it in June. The possibility of postponing the Ukrainian issue to the next summit is not under consideration now.

As you know, Ukraine signed an official request for Ukraine to join the EU on February 28.

However, we are not talking about joining right now - only about starting the procedure. On March 11, the EU agreed to this at an extraordinary summit. The European Commission has developed a questionnaire for potential candidates; Ukraine filled it in a record short time, then filled the second part just as quickly.

This whole process took a bit longer than two months. It is unprecedentedly fast for the EU, several times faster than any candidate in the past.

Currently, decisions on the Ukrainian application will also be made according to a special procedure, as EuroPravda sources say. 

The European Commission must produce an independent opinion on whether Ukraine is ready for membership. It should be a technical document without affecting the position of member states.

But the reality is different.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, is in talks with crucial member states and plans to visit Kyiv in person.

Two Plans for Ukraine

"There are three countries that do not want to give the green light to Ukraine or demand preconditions for the candidacy. It would be a very tough decision for us. We are sure it will weaken the European Union and European leaders," said Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, to reporters in Brussels.

She insists that Ukraine already meets the criteria for candidate countries, and the EU must recognize its status now. Instead, all following steps (such as membership talks) will be conditioned by reforms.

She has spent the last few weeks in the EU, traveling between European capitals, trying to convince her European counterparts that Ukraine deserves candidate status. Meanwhile, Presidential Diplomatic Adviser Ihor Zhovkva and Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzaparova traveled to European capitals, as well as Ukrainian civil society activists. All of them have tried to persuade EU politicians that Ukraine should become a candidate without any "buts" or "ifs."

However, they did not reach unanimity.

Several capitals also promote a "Plan B." It stipulates that Ukraine becomes only a "potential candidate," receiving a legally recognized membership prospect. It must meet the conditions proposed in the conclusions of the European Commission to become a candidate.

Many in the EU sincerely believe that the latter is good for Ukraine. This position is widespread among European Commission officials and in some Member States.

 Ukraine itself sees this as an unconditional defeat.

Both the government and Zelensky's administration have already announced that publicly. Ukrainian society supports the assessment of officials. Ukrainian reform experts said this is unanimous. They sent a letter to the EU on this matter, which garnered unprecedented support.

They remind us that Ukraine already meets the requirements for candidate countries. It is enough to compare with other countries that received this status. Therefore, not giving it to Ukraine would be just unfair.

So far, only one country has received a similar response from Brussels about the "conditional candidate" - Bosnia and Herzegovina. Let's be honest this is a failed state. Equating to it infuriates Ukraine.

Votes for and against

Many sources claim that French President Macron is more in favor of granting candidate status to the EU's two neighbors, Ukraine and Moldova. In France, the parliamentary elections are coming to an end (both rounds will take place before the summit). It will free the president's hands. At the same time, Ukraine has responded positively to Macron's initiative to create a "European political community." The French leader is very proud of this project. It means a lot for him that Kyiv responded positively to it.

Austria is also sending cautiously positive signals. This state, which a month and a half ago ruled out the possibility of Ukraine's candidate status, is now softening its position.

The Netherlands has traditionally been a problem. Prime Minister Rutte insists on not giving Ukraine new statuses until it meets the conditions. However, he can lift the veto if left alone.

And Germany acts normally under Olaf Scholz's chancellorship.

It avoids a definite position. Scholz himself prefers to say no, but voters are pressuring him. And they see Ukraine in the EU.

However, Denmark and Sweden have been actively supporting Plan B recently. They prioritize anti-corruption actions as a condition. And this might be a more significant problem than German indecision.

Ursula von der Leyen will visit Ukraine in the upcoming days.

She is on Ukraine's side in this dispute.

Ursula realizes that a "no" for Ukraine, even disguised under the "Bosnian scenario," will have catastrophic consequences for everyone.

The purpose of her visit is to tell Zelensky how Kyiv can prevent a negative decision at the summit. Adopting a shortlist of rapid reforms will prove to skeptics that Ukraine remains on the side of pro-European change.

We can only hope that Ukraine will find a way out.

And the historic summit on June 23-24 will turn into an event where Ukraine and the EU will win together, not the other way around.


Written by Sergiy Sydorenko

European Pravda editor

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