After machismo against Russia, Ukraine gets ‘reality check’ from NATO and EU
While Ukraine’s chances of being admitted as a NATO member are extremely low, what should worry kyiv more is that its bid for early European Union (EU) membership may not materialize soon.
As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pushes for speedy EU accession talks with Kyiv with the backing of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, more powerful members of the EU like Germany, France and the Netherlands are holding back.
“We feel in our heart that Ukraine, through its fight and its courage, is already today a member of our Europe, of our family and of our union,” French President Emmanuel Macron told members of the European Parliament. in Strasbourg last week.
But then he clarified that there was a long way to go from an emotional favorite to an actual member. “We all know perfectly well that the process of getting them to join would actually take several years, and most likely several decades,” he said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was not as outspoken as the French president, but he refrained from promising Ukraine “candidate status” or rapid EU membership.
However, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reportedly warned against empty promises during the membership debate. She said there could be no “shortcut” for Ukraine on the road to EU membership.
It is emotionally true that the 27 EU countries stand with Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Never before have EU countries provided so much economic and military aid to Ukraine as they are currently doing.
But when the question of making it another member of the EU arises, they are likely to put compassion aside. Ukraine or any other candidate must meet numerous EU criteria and go through a myriad of accession procedures.
Applications for EU membership from Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey are already pending. And, what is remarkable is that Turkey’s application for EU membership did not come until 1987. However, the countries that applied later than Turkey got the membership.
Incidentally, the EU has so far experienced seven waves of enlargement — in 1973 (Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom), 1981 (Greece), 1986 (Spain, Portugal), 1995 (Austria, Finland, Sweden), 2004 (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia), 2007 (Bulgaria, Romania) and 2013 (Croatia).
Normally, it takes up to 18 months to decide on the issue of candidate status. To have any chance of meeting von der Leyen’s ambitious timetable, the Commission services will have to work overtime and go through all the bureaucratic procedure with their Ukrainian colleagues, even at weekends.
The procedure for admission as a member of the EU is as follows:
First, the candidate country must formally address the council. A unanimous vote of the Council is then necessary to move forward and seek the opinion of the European Commission, which, in turn, must negotiate on the basis of a framework agreed by all the Member States and see if the candidate country fulfills three basic conditions, also known as “Copenhagen criteria– having stable and democratic institutions, being a functioning market economy and implementing the European Union’s body of law (“the acquis”, in EU jargon).
The Commission also monitors the effective implementation of more than 60 years of EU policies and laws, the negotiation is divided into more than 30 chapterswhich include areas such as transport policy, taxation, financial services, agriculture or public procurement, to name but a few.
Once the Commission’s positive recommendation (if any) comes back to the Council, the latter must decide “unanimously” that sufficient progress has been made by the candidate country to become a member of the EU. The main thing here is unanimous approval.
This unanimous Council approval then goes to the European Parliament, where it must be adopted by an absolute majority. The treaty is then ratified by the 27 Member States in accordance with their national procedures.
Given the above, where is Ukraine now? On February 28, Ukraine submitted its candidacy. On March 7, the council voted to go ahead and asked the Commission to give its opinion. April 18, Ukraine provided detailed information to inform the Commission’s assessment.
The Commission must now deliver its opinion to the council, which is due to meet on June 23 and 24. Normally, it takes up to 18 months to decide on the issue of candidate status. But then, as has been pointed out, von der is determined to help Ukraine and she has promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that.
His staff would work overtime to go through all the bureaucratic procedure with their Ukrainian colleagues. The Ukrainian authorities reportedly claimed to have already met 63% of the EU criteria.
A long way to go for Ukraine
But then, Ukraine still has a long way to go before it fully meets the conditions of the European Union, it is said. It must also make its political, judicial and economic system compatible with the bloc by adopting the common law system of the EU, as well as more than 80,000 pages of rules and regulations on everything from environmental standards to food hygiene rules. .
All in all, the ongoing war may have changed Zelensky’s profile, otherwise his democratic credentials as president were deeply suspect not only in Europe but also in other parts of the democratic world. All opposition leaders in Ukraine were punished and harassed by him. The rule of law remains fully brittle in Ukraine, with an untransparent procurement system and a weak judicial system.
Of course, there are precedents for acceleration: Sweden and Finland managed to join the Union a few years after applying. But a quick approach in the case of Ukraine, that too when the country is at war, will be considered extremely rare if it materializes.
In addition, other countries have been waiting for years to join, including Albania, Bosnia and Serbia, which makes it difficult for the EU to move faster on Ukraine.
Analysts wonder if Ukraine can assume the charge of EU membership. Even before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was a very poor country, with a GDP per capita less than half that of Bulgaria.
Can it meet all EU standards while integrating into the European single market? In asking this question, analysts suggest that “Brussels’ muted wishful thinking and false hope are not a good basis for Ukraine’s recovery.
Instead, the EU would be better off offering Kyiv something that brings real political benefits that can be delivered quickly.
And they seem to be right. After all, none other than Macron has raised the possibility of an alternative. He suggested the creation of a “European political community”, a kind of EU waiting room in which would-be members would enter.
- Veteran author and journalist Prakash Nanda is Chairman of the Editorial Board of EurAsian Times and has been commentating on politics, foreign policy and strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and a recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Fellowship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. CONTACT: [email protected]
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