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Brussels to Report on Opening Door for Ukraine EU Bid

The EU’s executive gives its advice Wednesday on whether Ukraine is ready to begin formal membership talks, as momentum builds in favour of Kyiv’s ambition to join the bloc.

Ukraine launched its bid to become part of the European Union in the weeks after Moscow’s all-out invasion in 2022, and was officially named a candidate to join last June.

Now the European Commission is delivering its verdict on whether Kyiv has made good on initial reforms, and then it will be for the EU’s 27 leaders at a summit in December to decide to start talks or not.

The broad expectation in Brussels is that Ukraine — along with ex-Soviet neighbour Moldova — will get the commission’s backing to move to the next stage.

On Saturday, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen praised Kyiv for completing “way over 90 percent” of seven reform benchmarks Brussels had set, including tackling graft and curbing oligarch power.

“I am confident that you can reach your ambitious goal: That is, for the historic decision to open the process of accession negotiations to be taken already this year,” she told Ukraine’s parliament during a visit to Kyiv.

If war-torn Ukraine does get the nod, it will still only be at the start of a painstaking process of reforms that could still last for years — if not decades — before it joins the EU. 

Turkey began accession talks in 2005, but those are at a dead end. Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are in negotiations as well.

The war in Ukraine has breathed fresh life into the EU’s stalled push to take on new members, as the bloc looks to keep Russian and Chinese influence at bay. 

Bosnia became a candidate in December and Georgia is pushing to become one. Both are hoping to get backing from Brussels to progress.

– ‘Stronger and more secure’ –

A positive signal from the EU could provide a vital boost to Ukraine at a difficult time when its troops have failed to make a breakthrough and questions grow over continuing US support. 

“Ukraine will make the European Union stronger and more secure, and together we will increase stability in the entire Europe,” President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote ahead of the report. 

But even diplomats from EU countries strongly backing Kyiv admit the debate in December will be tough — and approval to start talks could be conditional on further reforms.

Countries such as the Netherlands insist there can be no shortcuts on the road to membership. Hungary, Russia’s closest ally in the EU, accuses Kyiv of curbing the rights of ethnic Hungarians. 

“It’s obviously heated, difficult — if it weren’t, we’d have a compromise decision already,” said one senior European diplomat. 

“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get it done. The problem is that it’s not going to be the end of the road, it’s likely going to be conditional.”

Wrapped up with Ukraine’s membership push, and those of the other hopefuls, is a far more fundamental debate on how to make the EU manageable if it reaches 30 members or more. 

Allowing in a war-shattered nation of over 40 million people would spell a major shift — and huge costs — for the bloc.

Some EU members have argued the EU must reform itself first, before thinking about getting bigger. 

But others fear that this gargantuan task could be used to delay any progress in bringing Ukraine and the others closer. 

“There are huge issues,” said the EU diplomat. “There are some that we could spend a century debating without reaching a consensus.”

Source: Macau Business