Ukraine dispatch: the myriad merits of Ukraine’s EU candidacy — for the country and for Europe at large
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Ukraine dispatch: the myriad merits of Ukraine’s EU candidacy — for the country and for Europe at large

Ukrainian law students and young lawyers are reporting for JURIST on national and international developments in and affecting Ukraine. This dispatch is from Mariia Lazareva, a student with the International Relations Department of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

It’s been more than four months since the Russian Federation began its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of the sovereign and independent Ukraine. Since then, the European Union (EU) has taken active action by imposing a restrictive sanctions package against the Russian government and sending not only financial aid but also armaments to Ukraine. On June 23, 2022, the EU took its support further by granting Ukraine EU candidate status.

At an EU Council summit in Brussels, leaders of the EU’s 27 nations unanimously voted for that decision, acting with uncharacteristic speed and unity and marking a crucial step on Ukraine’s path toward the EU. Leaders also agreed to approve Moldova’s candidacy.

It is worth mentioning that in the previous 20 years, when Ukraine declared its aspirations for membership in the EU, the latter had never officially recognized this goal as realistic and achievable, thus eliminating even a hint of Ukraine’s right to apply for membership.

In fact, the Russian invasion at once prompted Kyiv to apply for candidacy and the EU to accelerate its approval. On the 5th day of Russia’s full-scale war, Ukraine applied to join the European Union. Therefore, the March decision of the EU summit in Versailles, which not only recognized the legality of the submitted Ukrainian application but also endorsed its immediate consideration, marked an incredible breakthrough and created the foundation for the candidacy.

Ukraine quickly prepared high-quality answers to the questionnaire to obtain the status of a candidate for membership in the EU, assessing the compliance of Ukrainian legislation with the European acquis communautaire.

On the basis of the assessment of those answers, the European Commission recommended to the Council that Ukraine should be given the opportunity to become a member of the European Union with the understanding that the list of seven requirements is fulfilled by the end of 2022.

historic trip to Kyiv by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on June 16 signaled their powerful pro-candidacy position, while also rendering it significantly more difficult for other members to oppose Ukraine’s candidate status.

The decision of the European Council on June 23 launched a legal mechanism through which Ukraine will progress towards full-fledged EU membership, while the implementation process of the European Commission recommendations has already commenced. For instance, on June 20, Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed several essential laws, including legislation on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and the Anti-Corruption Strategy.

Beyond the official legal prospects of a European future for Ukraine, candidacy for EU membership provides a range of benefits for Ukraine on its path toward European integration, namely:

Extensive transformation

Preparation for EU accession includes the EU’s support for reforms, improvement of the legal framework and the economy, bolstered standards of living, welfare, and legal protection of citizens to the level of the EU member states;

Financial assistance

Ukraine will receive broader access to financial assistance, including investments, grants, and technical assistance, by becoming a full member of EU programs and initiatives (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, IPA).

Investments

During the course of reforms and adaptation to EU legislation, Ukraine will become more attractive to investors, whereas EU members will consider investments in Ukraine as investments in the growth and strengthening of the Union itself.

Development of cooperation

Its candidate status allows Ukraine to participate in EU programs and initiatives open to both EU members and candidate status states.

Signal to Russia

Ukraine’s candidacy may also strengthen its position in future talks with Russia, as this status is a clear and powerful signal to the Kremlin that Ukraine’s European course is irreversible.

Today, Ukraine faces a complex and lengthy process of negotiations on becoming a full-fledged member of the EU, which should be based on the reconstruction of the country as well as an approximation to EU standards in the fields of legislation, economy, and technology. But, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, the reform plan presented by the European Commission is in our interests, and “in any case, we will not let delay or talk our way out of the further integration movement of Ukraine.”

According to Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Olha Stefanishina, the Parliament of Ukraine will prepare for the vote on more than 30 European integration bills by the end of this year.

As a result, the decision of the EU Council summit strengthens both Ukraine and the EU in the face of Russian imperialism. EU candidate status for Ukraine presents a moral victory and sends a strong message to Moscow: that neither Kyiv nor Brussels accepts the Putin vision of a new European order.

Accordingly, Ukraine’s candidate status not only delivers a tremendous morale boost to Ukrainians but also presents an immense step towards strengthening Europe at a time when the Russian war is challenging the ability of the West to preserve such indispensable values as unity and freedom.