Seven EU Requirements for Ukraine: Accession Negotiations Getting Closer

Thursday, 4 May 2023 — , European Pravda
The start of EU accession negotiations in 2023 now appears to be very real

Ukraine is getting closer to timely meeting the seven criteria or requirements granted by the EU with candidate status. Not all the work is accomplished yet. Currently, only one of the seven criteria remains, which has systemic problems due to Ukraine's fault – the reform of the Constitutional Court. The situation depends on events in the coming weeks and even days.

However, it was one more challenging requirement for Ukraine – de-oligarchisation. But the EU began to lean towards the idea that this point should be overlooked. Experts also removed it from the list of problem areas.

We have a state of execution from good to excellent according to all other indicators. The final assessment is 6.8 out of 10. Given this situation, the start of negotiations on joining the EU in 2023 seems quite real.

These are the results of a study conducted by a consortium of Ukrainian analytical centers. This is the fourth analysis of "Candidate-Check" since Ukraine obtained a list of seven EU criteria.

Negotiate without unnecessary demands

In June 2022, when the European Commission proposed granting Ukraine EU candidate status, along with a list of "requirements," there were no guarantees that even if Ukraine met all the criteria perfectly, it would move on to the next stage of membership, namely the opening of formal accession negotiations.

Now the situation has changed. There is a consensus in the EU that negotiations on Ukraine's accession will begin without additional demands.

Moreover, many countries are already seeking to adopt a decision to begin accession negotiations with Ukraine at one of the EU summits at the end of 2023.

Such optimism was only possible with the progress demonstrated by official Kyiv.


Constitutional problem (2 out of 10)

The main problem remains the system reform for selecting judges for the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU). Experts gave it a very low score.

Unfortunately, European partners contributed to the problem by repeatedly changing their public position on how they see the reform. This gave leverage to those representatives of Ukraine who sought to reduce the ambition of the CCU reform or even sabotage it.

Therefore, Kyiv has taken steps forward and backward in this area.

Ukraine is at crossroads regarding this reform nowadays.

The Venice Commission is going to publish a conclusion that will determine the outlines of the reform that the European Union will agree to as fulfilling the requirement by Ukraine. And if Kyiv does not implement these recommendations, it will be a red signal that it is imitating reform instead of fulfilling it.

Controversial disputed issues sound technical. They concern the number of members of the Advisory Expert Group (the body that will select judges), the principle of their voting, and the principle of assessing judges' competence. But these "technical things" will determine whether it will be possible to elect independent judges to the CCU (why not everyone in Ukraine wants this is discussed in the article Ukrainian Players Aim to Control Constitutional Court, Forcing Europe to Greenlight It).

Oligarch era ended (assessment withdrawn)

In this round of assessment, the experts of "Candidate-Check" have made an unprecedented and unanimous decision to change the methodology and stop evaluating requirement No. 5 on the EU's list - anti-oligarch reform.

As reported earlier by European Pravda, a Western European country requested this in the EU's decision on Ukraine. At the time, many believed it was logical since the influence of oligarchs is indeed a problem for Ukraine.

Therefore, Ukraine was tasked with initiating the implementation of the "Anti-oligarch law," adopted in 2021 and amended based on the recommendations of the Venice Commission. This law created a "register of oligarchs" and, at the time, faced a lot of criticism due to arbitrary procedures and criteria.

However, it turned out that this requirement is impossible to fulfill, not due to Kyiv's fault.

It's been over a year since Ukraine turned to the Venice Commission, and they have yet to prepare a conclusion on this law! Due to political problems, the commission wants to avoid adopting the relevant document.

So, Ukraine has faced a unique situation. Kyiv must fulfill the requirement to start accession negotiations, but the European side does not allow it.

Therefore, the coalition of experts is stopping rating the requirement and publicly appealing to the EU to solve this issue. Either the European Commission should clarify this requirement, or the EU should decide not to consider it, deciding on opening accession negotiations.

Money laundering that doesn't exist (6 out of 10)

Another controversial requirement, added to the Ukrainian list just before granting it EU candidacy, in compliance with the FATF organisation, i.e., in countering money laundering.

However, Ukraine does not experience any problems with FATF. So, it was not entirely clear what they were expecting from Kyiv.

Recently, the European Commission and the Ukrainian government agreed on a list of necessary legislative changes. We expect to progress as early as May.

Anti-corruption? Better than expected! (8 out of 10)

Discussing "problematic" areas for Ukraine with representatives of Western countries, combating corruption tends to be the first thing that comes to mind. However, this is just a stereotype, as confirmed by high expert ratings.

Over the past year, Ukraine has appointed the heads of the Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) through a competition. The anti-corruption vertical has demonstrated high activity, with suspicions announced against a member of parliament, some judges, the former head of the State Property Fund, the former deputy minister of defence, and others. Investigations have been completed, and several cases have been sent to court, including the first part of the "Rotterdam+" case. Verdicts have been handed down in some cases. For example, a member of parliament and a city mayor were convicted based on plea agreements.

Yes, not everything is perfect. The expert coalition is waiting for the laws that guarantee the independence of the anti-corruption special prosecutor, which will allow us to speak about meeting this requirement completely. Ukraine still has time for this.

Judicial reform on track (8 out of 10)

Another area considered challenging for Ukraine has also received a positive rating over the past year, following the country's candidacy status. It has even improved.

Recently, the High Council of Justice has started working in Ukraine. The competition for the selection of its members is ongoing. The competition to form the High Qualification Commission of Judges is also ongoing. 

It seems that the process is moving in the right direction.

These reform components are essential, as they will determine what the Ukrainian judicial system will look like in the next few decades.

Success story with media (9 points out of 10)

Media requirement claims the status of a "success story." Ukraine has almost fulfilled it. The law on advertising, which has already received a generally favourable response from the European Commission, remains to be adopted in the second reading.

Minorities: problems without violations (8 points out of 10)

And last but not least - legislation on national minorities. A lot has been done, and Kyiv is waiting for the conclusion of the "Venice Commission" regarding the framework law on national minorities.

According to Ukrainian experts, this law generally complies with the provisions of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe on the Protection of National Minorities. But everyone perfectly understands: no matter how great the law is, Hungary, which is in conflict with Ukraine over the minority, is unlikely to be satisfied.

This can become a serious obstacle to opening negotiations. That is why it is crucial for Ukraine to receive and implement the VC's conclusion.


Author: Sergiy Sydorenko,
Editor, "European Pravda"

The study was carried out by a coalition led by the New Europe Center

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