Ukraine dispatch: European Commission recommends EU begin Ukraine accession talks Dispatches
Ukraine dispatch: European Commission recommends EU begin Ukraine accession talks

Oksana Bidnenko is a staff correspondent for JURIST. She is a Ukrainian law student at the Riga Graduate School of Law in Riga, Latvia.

Last Wednesday, November 8, the European Commission adopted the 2023 Enlargement Agenda, highlighting certain countries’ progress towards  EU accession. Notably, Ukraine and Moldova received positive proposals for showing significant progress.

Despite ongoing war challenges, Ukraine’s reform input in the past year led the Commission to recommend the start of accession talks. The Commission mentioned that good prospects have also been seen in Moldova despite constant hybrid attacks against it.

As mentioned in the report, Ukraine has completed 90% of the reforms expected from it by the EU. At the same time, the remaining condition is the continuation of the unfinished reforms in the future.

According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine has made significant progress in the field of constitutional justice, the reform of the selection of the Supreme Council of Justice, the anti-corruption program, the fight against money laundering, important measures to curb oligarchs, in public life, as well as in the new law on media and progress on national minorities law.

In light of Ukraine’s and Moldova’s achievements, as well as ongoing reform initiatives, the Commission has proposed that the Council initiate accession negotiations with both countries. Furthermore, the Commission is suggesting that negotiation frameworks be accepted by the Council once Ukraine and Moldova have adopted certain crucial actions. The Commission is prepared to report to the Council on the progress of these initiatives by March 2024.

Additionally, European Commission von der Leyen emphasized the crucial role of enlargement, citing historical, economic and geopolitical benefits and therefore recommended granting Georgia the status of a candidate country on the understanding that a number of steps are taken.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the European Commission’s recommendation to start membership negotiations with Ukraine.

“Today, the history of Ukraine and the whole of Europe took the right step – the European Commission recommended starting membership negotiations with Ukraine. (…) Despite all the difficulties, we are moving forward. And already in December, we expect a political decision from the European Council,” he said.

According to Zelenskyi, Ukrainians have always been and are part of the common European family, and Ukraine should be in the European Union.

Of course this news has received positive reaction in Ukraine as it means that the country is getting closer to its EU membership. On the other hand, the process of actually getting membership can take decades. In the case of Ukraine a lot depends on how long it takes to implement the unfinished steps. Additionally, it will take some time to negotiate with countries who might block its EU accession, like Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. These countries might use Ukraine’s accession to the EU to achieve their own political and economic aims.

Another question that might be raised is how exactly Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia will access the European Union, since a certain percentage of its territories are occupied by proxy forces of the Russian Federation. Is it expected to be partial accession? How will these three countries respond to this? For example, as was mentioned by the Ukrainian MP Maria Mezentseva, Ukraine is not ready to give up its territories for membership. What concerns Moldova and Georgia remains unclear.