EU membership application: Von der Leyen for talks in Kyiv

Russia’s war of aggression has pushed Ukraine closer to the EU. But is it enough for a status as an EU candidate? The President of the Commission now wants to clarify final questions with Selenskyj in Kyiv.

In the capital of the country attacked by Russia, the leading German politician wanted to discuss, among other things, open points in the application for admission with President Volodymyr Zelenskyj and Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal. In addition, it should be about the long-term help of the EU in repairing the war damage.

“We will take stock of the joint efforts required for reconstruction and of Ukraine’s progress on its European path,” said von der Leyen on her arrival in Kyiv on Saturday morning. “This will feed into our assessment, which we will present shortly.”

Assessment to come on Friday

The European Commission is expected to publish its assessment next Friday on whether Ukraine should be granted candidate status for EU membership. Linked to such a recommendation would probably be reform commitments in areas such as the rule of law or the fight against corruption.

The decision on whether Ukraine will be granted candidate status lies with the EU states and must be taken unanimously. The EU summit on 23./24. June is supposed to deal with it – however, the views of the countries sometimes differ widely, although the decision on candidate status does not anticipate the admission decision and is also not linked to a time frame. For example, Turkey has been an EU accession candidate since 1999.

Ukraine had in March, shortly after the start of the Russian war of aggression on 24. February, submitted an application for acceptance into the EU. The EU states instructed the EU Commission to deal with it and to make a recommendation.

Ukraine’s expectations of rapprochement with the EU are huge. The President of the Ukrainian Parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, recently made it clear in the European Parliament that the morale of the Ukrainian people is also at stake: “We need this incentive, we need this accession candidate status. The Ukrainian people need to hear that from Europe,” he said. President Zelenskyy keeps pushing and recently said that the EU could take a historic step and prove that words about the Ukrainian people’s belonging to the European family are not just empty words.

EU disagree about joining question

Within the EU, however, this question is highly explosive – it is a challenge for the EU Commission to take the interests of all countries into account when making its recommendation. States such as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, as well as Italy and Ireland, are strongly in favor of making Ukraine a candidate for the EU as quickly as possible. This is “an important political message that we have to send as soon as possible,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Tuesday after talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “We have no moral right to miss this moment. Ukraine is defending this right with its blood.”

There has recently been little open rejection of such a path, but some states are at least skeptical. These include France and the Netherlands. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has not yet taken a clear stance, but he has emphasized that he will not accept any special rules for Ukraine’s accelerated EU accession. He also pointed out that this was not fair to the six countries in the Western Balkans, which are also hoping to join the EU. Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania are already EU accession candidates. Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are still waiting for this status. The rapprochement has been stagnating for years, Scholz wants to create a new dynamic. He was traveling to Balkan countries at the weekend.

Von der Leyen’s trip to Kyiv is her second since the beginning of the war on 24. February. It was not publicly announced in advance for security reasons. In April, von der Leyen visited the Kiev suburb of Butscha, where war crimes had recently become public. At that time, she presented Selensky with the list of questions that her authority uses to assess Ukraine’s EU ambitions. “We stand by your side when you dream of Europe,” she said at the time. Their message is that “Ukraine belongs to the European family”. (dpa)

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