The leaders of the 27 member states of the European Union meet this Thursday (23) and on Friday (24) at the European Council to decide whether to grant Ukraine the status of candidate country to join the bloc. Last June 17th, the Ukrainians took a historic step in the process, when the European Commission gave its assent to its accession.
The former Soviet republic, therefore, already meets the minimum prerequisites to enter the EU, but there are also political, economic and social conditions that are required to adapt to the European model.
For Igor Lucena, a doctor in international relations from the University of Lisbon, in Portugal, and a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the candidacy can make Ukraine more respectful among the members of the bloc, a point of extreme importance in the when the country has been facing an armed conflict with Russia since February 24.
“The European Union was largely responsible for peace on the continent, so there is the counterpoint of bringing this context to a country at war. In addition, the bloc has an integration project for peace and reconstruction, an essential issue for Ukraine”, explains Igor. The expert believes that candidate country status will be granted, however the measure should come in future sessions.
Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU is also perceived by the visits by European leaders to President Volodmyr Zelensky in Kiev. This month, the leaders of three of Europe’s biggest economies, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, met with Volodmyr Zelensky. On the same occasion, the Ukrainian leader met with the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis.
After the European Commission recommended candidate status to Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that he has no “nothing against” the neighboring country’s entry into the bloc.
The expert says that Putin sees no point in alienating the EU to the point of claiming that the group has no legitimacy to choose its own members. “He doesn’t want to alienate another bloc other than NATO, he also doesn’t object because he knows this process can take decades. Probably, by the time that happens, he may already have stopped ruling Russia.”
Despite the statement, he points out that the Russian offensive must intensify amid the EU’s decision period, as it has been since the beginning of this week in the regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk, in the northeast and east of Ukraine.
“There is no doubt that Russian attacks will increase because this is the government’s way of expressing its displeasure. If Ukraine becomes a candidate, Europeans will have greater and greater influence in the country,” says Igor.
For the professor of International Politics of the Institute of International Relations and Defense of the UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) Fernando Brancoli, Putin intends to keep the war for at least another six months or a year.
“The Northern Hemisphere is entering summer, so gas is not yet as necessary, but winter will soon come, when the situation gets complicated. The Russians imagine that even with this advance of Ukraine towards the European Union, the country will need to return to the negotiating table due to the problems of inflation and the supply of gas and food.”
“All these factors will put pressure on Ukraine by European countries, with the idea that it is not possible to remain in this situation”, he adds.
Pace towards the EU
Despite the serious situation that Ukraine faces during the Russian invasion, its entry process into the European Union should not be accelerated, as the bloc requires a series of fundamental requirements for the accession of a new member.
“Stability is a fundamental element for the European ascension; until this war ends, Ukraine will not join the bloc,” says Lucena. “But some concessions can be made in accessing money and weapons to fight Russia.”
Furthermore, even if it becomes a candidate, the country will have the responsibility to maintain the rise of the proposed requirements during the transition period to the bloc, so that it guarantees the requirements of the European model.
On the other hand, Brancoli believes that the most delicate point of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will be the control of separatist regions in eastern Ukraine. “The country’s entry into the bloc will have to go through this complicated issue. They will hardly be able to expel Russia from this region.”