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Politics Monitor

Ukraine’s Surprising Progress Towards EU Membership

Ukraine obtained its status as a candidate for the European Union in record time, in June 2022. Since then, the country has been striving, despite the war, to demonstrate its willingness to meet the requirements of the 27.
Granting EU candidate status to a country at war, the scenario is unprecedented for the 27. And yet, eight months after obtaining this status, “Ukraine is at a very advanced stage even if it does not ‘has not implemented everything that was asked of him,’ said Benjamin Couteau, researcher at the Jacques Delors Institute, specialist in EU enlargement. “Ukraine has made progress that no one expected,” he said.

An opinion shared by Alberto Alemanno, professor of European Union law at HEC. “Ukraine has shown quite a considerable effort in that after receiving candidate status, it has implemented a whole series of working groups which have accelerated the preparation and fulfillment of the criteria which have been imposed by the 27,” he said.

What Progress?

At the top of these criteria, known as the Copenhagen and Madrid criteria, is the defense of a stable democratic system. “We must demonstrate that Ukraine is a democracy and will remain a democracy that respects the rule of law and in which the judiciary remains independent,” said Alberto Alemanno.

Among the advances highlighted, the vote last December in the Ukrainian Parliament of a “law on the media”. The EU had advised Ukraine to reform its legislation in this area. The text notably provides for restricting the influence of the oligarchs on the Ukrainian media.

Fight Against Corruption

But other reforms requested by Brussels are stagnating, particularly concerning efforts to combat money laundering or the thorny subject of the fight against corruption.

On this point, Benjamin Couteau nevertheless recalls the vast anti-corruption operation launched at the start of the year within the Ukrainian government itself. “We had a real desire to show the European institutions that Ukraine was fighting against corruption. There was a search of the home of a billionaire who was previously very close to Volodymyr Zelensky. Senior officials from the Ministry of Defense and a former Minister of the interior were targeted,” he said.

Towards The Opening of Negotiations?

On the long road to membership, the next step for Kyiv is to get negotiations started. So far, no schedule has been given. “Ukraine must both meet the conditions requested by the EU and that all member states must agree, unanimously”, recalls Benjamin Couteau.

“The main issues: rule of law, corruption, independence of the judiciary, this is where Ukraine will be judged rather harshly by several member states, in particular the Netherlands, which has slowed down or been more realistic in its promises to Mr. Zelensky,” said Alberto Alemanno, a specialist in EU law.

The Process Depends on The Outcome of The War

In addition, many uncertainties remain linked to this unprecedented context of a candidacy in a country at war. “It is almost impossible to reconcile the satisfaction of the various conditions of membership while being in a state of war”, recalls Alberto Alemanno.

At the political level, but also economically, the conflict generates many unknowns. What will be the costs associated with the reconstruction? Will Ukraine be able to maintain the economic standards required by the EU?

“We don’t know what state the country will be in at the end of the war”, notes Benjamin Couteau. And to conclude, “the only thing we are sure of is the determination of the Ukrainians to go as quickly as possible and as far as possible in this accession process”.

This article is originally published on fr.euronews.com

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