Should Ukraine join the EU? The question arose with renewed urgency on Sunday when Polish President Andrzej Duda addressed Ukraine’s parliament in Kyiv. “Poland will do everything in its power to help Ukraine become a member of the European Union,” Duda said. The 50-year-old was the first foreign head of state to appear in the Rada since the Russian invasion began in February.
The decision-makers in the EU are in no doubt that Ukraine must find a place in Europe after the Russian invasion. From a political point of view, the matter is clear, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told the Tagesspiegel. “It is clear that we are all challenged in the EU,” he said. “When we talk about Ukraine, we must not forget about Moldova and Georgia either,” he added. These two states have also submitted applications for EU membership.
According to the Luxembourg Foreign Minister, it is now a matter of finding a technically viable solution for Ukraine’s application for membership. In June, the EU Commission wants to explain how it will assess the government’s application in Kyiv. “I hope that the EU Commission will make a proposal that we can all agree to,” said Asselborn, referring to the different positions of the 27 EU countries.
Asselborn’s warning is no coincidence. Already on the question of whether EU accession talks should be started with North Macedonia and Albania, the community is currently unable to find a common line: Bulgaria is blocking the start of negotiations. Such possible accession talks are still a long way off for Ukraine. But there are already differences among the 27 EU states when it comes to granting candidate status, the first step on the way to eventual full membership.
Poland and the Baltic EU members in particular are in favor of granting candidate status to Ukraine in the coming month. A preliminary decision could be made at the EU summit meeting on June 23rd and 24th in Brussels. If a decision is made at the summit in favor of Kiev’s EU candidacy – which is currently still open – differing opinions remain about the pace of possible accession.
Last but not least, Berlin and Paris are on the brakes. Both France’s head of state Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had recently emphasized that full membership within a few years was out of the question.
In fact, an express accession by Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had hoped for immediately after the Russian attack, seems to be off the table. Even in the Baltic countries, this option is now being ruled out.
Macron had even declared that it would take “decades” for Kiev to join the EU. However, his offer to initially include Ukraine in a new “European political community” and thus to offer it “EU membership light”, so to speak, is not well received in Ukraine. “We don’t need substitute funds for EU candidate status that show Ukraine’s second-rate treatment and hurt Ukrainians’ feelings,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba recently wrote on Twitter.