Ukraine News: Russia calls on EU to push forward ‘hostile’ Ukraine membership

Credit…Nariman El-Mofty/Associated Press

BRUSSELS — The European Union formally nominated Ukraine as a candidate for membership on Thursday, signaling in the face of a devastating Russian military attack that it sees Ukraine’s future as lying in an embrace of the democratic West.

While Ukraine’s joining the bloc could take a decade or more, the decision sends a powerful message of solidarity to Kyiv and a rebuke to Moscow, which has worked for more than a decade to prevent Ukraine from forging relations. links with the West.

The step was seen as nearly impossible just a few weeks ago, not least because Ukraine was considered too behind in terms of rooting out corruption and instituting economic reforms.

But the decision to give him candidate status nonetheless was another step forward for European nations who quickly abandoned preconceptions and reservations to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

“Agreement”, Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said on Twitter. “A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your path to the EU.”

The candidacy for the European Union, which the 27 EU leaders have also granted to Moldova, is an important step but nothing else. This signals that a nation is in a position, if certain conditions are met, to begin a very detailed, painstaking and lengthy process of changes and negotiations with the bloc, with a view to eventual membership.

When this might happen depends on the will of the country in question, which must align itself institutionally, democratically, economically and legally with EU laws and standards. On average, the process took about 10 years in other countries; Turkey has been a candidate for 21 years but is unlikely to join.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the EU decision “one of the most important decisions for Ukraine” in its 30 years of independence.

“It is the greatest step towards the strengthening of Europe that can be taken at this time, in our time, and precisely in the context of the Russian war, which is testing our ability to preserve freedom and unity” , Mr. Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

The European Union began in 1952 as a free trade bloc between a core of six nations. It has grown over the years to not only include large swathes of the European continent, but also to encompass policies well beyond trade and economics, although these remain its most common types of work. stronger and better aligned.

The war in Ukraine has forced the European Union to align itself on foreign policy, defense and the military, areas with which it is both politically uncomfortable and legally underqualified. Although it will not replace NATO, the bloc could in the coming years – when Ukraine does join – evolve more into a military union.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy, the EU’s largest countries, previewed the decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine during a visit this week last in its capital, Kyiv. Yet a handful of member countries had to be convinced that despite the fact that Ukraine was not ready to join the union, it was vital to give it the prospect of joining.

As important as the moment is for Ukraine, it is also very important for the European Union. Most members were eager to prevent the bloc from growing, in part because its 27 members are already struggling to agree on key issues such as democratic freedoms, economic reforms and the role of the courts.

The bloc nearly doubled in size in the decade 2004-2014, adding 13 members, including many from poorer former Soviet countries that quickly gained access to richer labor markets and significant bloc funding.

This integration is still not complete, with several nations struggling with corruption, rule of law issues and economic decline. This calls into question the bloc’s ability to absorb a country of Ukraine’s size and population.

Some European nations would also have liked to see Albania and North Macedonia, Balkan nations that have been candidates for more than a decade, admitted ahead of Ukraine. Western Balkan leaders met their EU counterparts earlier on Thursday, but the meeting failed to yield any progress.

The decision to grant Ukraine candidacy is sure to irritate Russia, which has described Ukraine’s aspirations to align itself with Western institutions like NATO and the European Union as a provocation and interference in its sphere of influence.

Christi C. Elwood