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08 Nov. 2023


The European Commission officially recommends starting negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU: what are the next steps?

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The European Commission officially recommends starting negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU: what are the next steps?

Ukraine's path to the EU continues, and the European Commission has recently released a report on Ukraine's progress towards membership. Find out more about the key findings and further conditions necessary for Ukraine's accession to the EU

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On Wednesday, November 8, the European Commission (EC) published a report recommending the start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the European Union. EC President Ursula von der Leyen noted that Ukraine has already implemented about 90% of the planned reforms, and this allows the negotiation process to begin. 

"10 years after the Maidan protests, a truly historic day has come. Today, the European Commission recommends starting accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. The Commission also recommends starting negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina once the criteria are met. It also recommends granting Georgia the status of a candidate country," the head of the European Commission emphasized.

The European Commission has decided on negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU: details

According to Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine has made significant progress in various areas, including constitutional justice, anti-corruption measures, anti-money laundering and media reform. However, unfinished reforms require further work.

Von der Leyen clarified that the European Commission will provide a report on the reforms implemented by Ukraine in March 2024.

What is still worth working on: key points from the published EC report

Representatives of the European Commission noted in the document that Ukraine already has a certain level of preparation in the field of public administration reform, although little progress has been made during the reporting period. However, the digitalization of service delivery has reached a high level.

Multi-level governance and decentralization reform are ongoing, with municipalities playing an important role in ensuring Ukraine's resilience. However, other elements of decentralization still need to be completed.

In the area of the judiciary, Ukraine has a certain level of preparedness and needs further efforts to improve its functioning. Despite the war of aggression, Ukraine has made significant progress in judicial reform in 2021 aimed at ensuring integrity and professionalism.

Some progress has been made in the fight against corruption, in particular after Ukraine gained EU candidate status.

Ukraine has also made progress in the fight against organized crime.

Ukraine generally adheres to international human rights standards and has ratified many international conventions on the protection of fundamental rights.

The EC recommends that the European Council start negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU and will monitor progress and compliance in all areas related to the opening of negotiations.

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Which countries do not support Ukraine's path to the EU and call for blocking the negotiations? 

Hungary is threatening to block the start of negotiations between Ukraine and the European Union on Ukraine's accession to the EU until Hungarian demands on the language of education are resolved. This was announced by the political director of the Hungarian Prime Minister Balazs Orban in an interview with the Dutch broadcaster NOS.

He emphasized that Hungary has always supported Ukraine's rapprochement with the EU, but the new law on language in Ukraine, which requires minorities to receive at least 70% of their education in Ukrainian, has changed the situation.

"Hungary's position is absolutely clear: as long as this law exists, there can be no discussions with Ukrainians about their integration into the European Union," the Hungarian prime minister's spokesman added.

In response, Ukraine argues that Hungary's political statements about "blocking" Ukraine's accession to the EU will not prevent real work on the issue of the language of education of the Hungarian minority. 

Olha Stefanishyna, Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, noted that Ukraine has already sent a special delegation to Budapest and presented its vision to Hungarian colleagues. The Ukrainian side has developed a clear roadmap for further steps and submitted a draft law to the Verkhovna Rada. 

Stefanishyna also noted that the European Commission was familiarized with these documents. In such a situation, political statements do not impede the work that Ukraine continues to do for representatives of national minorities.

Following Hungary, Poland has also put forward its own conditions for negotiations. In particular, Poland demands that Kyiv resolve the issue of the exhumation of Poles. The statement was made by Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski on Radio ZET.

"I will state our position. In my opinion, without resolving this issue (exhumation - ed.) - and many Ukrainians are already aware of this - Ukraine has no reason to dream of joining the European Union. Therefore, we will absolutely emphasize that without resolving this issue, there will be no long-term reconciliation with Ukraine," Yablonsky emphasized.

At the same time, the official did not answer the clarifying question whether the exhumations are a condition for Poland's support of Ukraine's accession to the EU. 

"I'm talking about reality: if we are to be in the same alliance with a country with which we have a significant dispute, then the dispute must be resolved, otherwise it is difficult to cooperate," he added.

A historic day for Ukraine: Zelenskyy's reaction to the EC's decision to start negotiations

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promptly reacted to the European Commission's decision and expressed a positive opinion of it. He emphasized that it was the right step in the development of the history of Ukraine and the whole of Europe.

The Head of State expressed confidence that Ukraine should become a part of the European Union, as Ukrainians deserve it due to their contribution to the protection of European values and their commitment to the development of state institutions. He also emphasized that Ukraine fulfills its promises even in difficult conditions, including during a full-scale war.

Zelenskyy called on all those who have helped Ukraine along the way and expressed his gratitude for their support. His statement underscores the importance of Ukraine's historical development and its desire to integrate into the European community.

When should we expect Ukraine's accession to the EU?

The next stage after the candidacy is negotiations between the candidate country and the EU members. It involves dozens of chapters that deal with basic laws, rights and obligations that unite all participants.

Once all the issues are agreed upon and reforms are implemented, the membership agreement can be signed. The relevant document must be approved by the Council of the EU, separately by the parliaments of each EU country and by a majority vote of the European Parliament.

The accession process often takes several years to decades.

However, despite the long and thorny path that we have to go through, we are confident that Ukraine will soon become a full member of the EU. After all, our future is in our hands. 

Ukraine is Europe!

On October 17, the Ukrainian parliament voted in favor of the last amendment to the law that separated Ukraine from the start of the EU accession negotiations. Find out more about the accession forecasts and whether Ukraine will be able to become part of the European Union in the near future.

Photo: GettyImages

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