The European Union gives the green light for the candidacies of Ukraine and Moldova

Le sommet des Vingt-Sept a donné son feu vert aux candidatures de l'Ukraine et la Moldavie ce jeudi.

It was a decision eagerly awaited by the Ukrainian authorities. The leaders of the Twenty-Seven recognized Ukraine and Moldova on Thursday as candidates for membership of the European Union, the President of the European Council Charles Michel announced in the evening, referring to a “historic moment”, almost four months after the invasion launched by the Russian army. The EU summit was devoted to granting candidate status to the two countries.

“Historic moment”, “very strong signal vis-à-vis Russia”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately greeted on Twitter “a unique and historic moment in Ukraine-EU relations”stating that, according to him, “the future of Ukraine lies within the EU”. It’s a “very strong signal vis-à-vis Russia”, said French President Emmanuel Macron. He greeted “a political gesture” of “strong and united Europe”, at a press conference in Brussels.

A primarily symbolic decision

This green light was hardly a surprise anymore. On June 16, during his trip to kyiv with his Italian, German and Romanian counterparts, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Volodymyr Zelensky to say: “All four of us support immediate candidate status for membership” of the European Union. The following day, the European Commission gave a favorable opinion on Ukraine’s candidacy and again on Tuesday, France, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, indicated that a “full consensus” between the Twenty-Seven had emerged on this issue.

But it is above all a symbolic decision because the process of joining the European Union is very long. Several Western Balkan countries are still in the European antechamber, some for more than ten years: North Macedonia has been a candidate since 2005, Montenegro since 2010, Serbia since 2012 and Albania since 2014. Bosnia -Herzegovina and Kosovo, which is not recognized by five EU members, are still only “potential candidates”. A fact that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama ironically recalled on Thursday: “North Macedonia has been a candidate for 17 years, if I haven’t lost count, and Albania for eight years, so welcome to Ukraine.” “Joining will take a long time”, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed.

Ukraine and Moldova will indeed have to carry out reforms in the fight against corruption and the independence of justice before an initial assessment by the end of the year. “Any country satisfying the membership criteria can apply. These criteria, called the “Copenhagen criteria”, concern a functioning market economy, stable democracy and the rule of law, as well as the adoption of all European legislation, including the euro” recalls the European Union on its site.

Belonging to “the European family”

Furthermore, “it is very difficult to imagine an enlargement as long as Ukraine is at war, said political scientist Hendrik Vos, from the University of Ghent in Belgium, interviewed by AFP. Before opening accession negotiations, there must be some form of conflict resolution”. The express review of kyiv’s candidacy, submitted in February, was indeed unprecedentedly rapid, justified by the war.

Beyond the political and economic benefits, the acceptance of his candidacy has a dimension of belonging to the “European family” which protects its members. Moreover, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has never ceased to repeat that his country belongs to the “European family”. This also opens up for Ukraine the question of its membership of Defense Europe, while the French and German leaders have pledged to continue their military support for kyiv. In any case, Ukraine said to itself “ready” to work to become “full member” of the Union, assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.