The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, on Wednesday, formally declared that the bloc should begin accession negotiations with Ukraine, as well as Moldova. EU leaders will need to approve the recommendation when they meet in December, for accession talks to begin.
“Today is a historic day because today the Commission recommends that the [European ] Council opens accession negotiations with Ukraine and with Moldova,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a briefing in Brussels on Wednesday.
Welcoming the decision, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine was reforming state institutions despite the war.
“Our country must be in the European Union,” he said in a video posted on X. Reacting to the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the EU revived the idea of the country joining the Union and granted Ukraine candidate status in June last year.
Joining the EU requires potential members to align their laws and economy with the union and its operating principles. The EU has wanted Ukraine to undertake reforms on seven dimensions, of which, Ukraine will be expected to show further progress in tackling oligarch power, fighting corruption, and – perhaps most importantly for the EU, the rights of minorities.
Ms. Von der Leyen said she was able to “convince herself” that 90% of the reforms the EU required of Kyiv had been taken and that further reforms were continuing.
The European Commission also granted Georgia “candidate” status on Wednesday, with the understanding that certain reforms are carried out.
With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commission recognised that the country had made progress on reforms, including in fighting organised crime, money laundering and terrorism, according to Ms. Von der Leyen.
However, the EU is looking for further reform. Threats of secession and clamping down on media and LGBT rights by the autonomous Republika Srpska entity within the country have not gone down well with the EU. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik had said in August that rather than joining the EU with its conditionalities, Bosnia and Herzogivna ought to join BRICS, a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, with six additional countries in the process of joining the bloc.
“Enlargement is a vital policy for the European Union,” Ms. Von der Leyen said.
“Completing our Union is the call of history, the natural horizon of our Union,” she added.
The process to membership can be long winded. Turkiye, for example, began membership talks with the EU just over 18 years ago.