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When Ukraine can join EU: Cabinet of Ministers and expert's assessment

When Ukraine can join EU: Cabinet of Ministers and expert's assessment Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Olha Stefanishyna (Photo: Getty Images)

The Ukrainian government sets an ambitious goal for itself - to be ready to join the EU two years after the start of accession negotiations.

More - in the article by RBC-Ukraine "Two or seven years? What could hinder Ukraine from initiating EU accession talks."

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal have publicly mentioned such terms. Additionally, the Prime Minister recently emphasized in an interview with Politico that Kyiv will not accept artificial delays in the process from Brussels.

"We have a clear understanding that Ukraine can be fully ready to join the EU within two years from the start of the negotiation process," said Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Olha Stefanishyna, in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

First Deputy Director of the New Europe Center, Serhiy Solodky, is cautious about statements regarding "EU accession in two years" but refrains from making his predictions about the timeline because the process is complex and unpredictable. According to him, much will depend primarily on the Ukrainian government. However, it seems unlikely that Kyiv will be able to implement all necessary reforms within two years, given that only about a year was spent fulfilling just seven candidate recommendations. But, as the expert noted, with political will, this process can be quick and of high quality.

In Brussels, the terms for EU accession are not viewed as optimistically as in Kyiv. For example, in a recent interview with the German Der Spiegel, the Chairman of the European Council, Charles Michel, stated that Ukraine could become an EU member in 2030 if "both sides do their homework." By "homework," he probably meant internal reforms, which the EU also plans to complete by 2030.

While attending the European Political Strategy Center summit in Granada, where, among other things, they planned to discuss the future of enlargement, EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated that thanks to Ukraine, the process of admitting new members could proceed more quickly and the 2030 year previously mentioned by European politicians is just a guideline.

Stefanishyna also noted that the year 2030 is a term that generally relates to the current wave of enlargement, and it does not necessarily mean that the accession of all candidates should happen simultaneously.

"There is an understanding that it is not about the accession of all countries 'overnight.' Each candidate country is treated individually, taking into account the speed of its transformations. Candidate countries are currently at different stages of progress regarding reforms and readiness for accession. Therefore, decisions on some countries may be made before the defined term," the Deputy Prime Minister explained.

According to Solodky, 2030 is an objective term for Ukraine's EU accession. Of course, he notes, it could happen earlier because it would be challenging for the EU to explain the refusal to give the green light to membership if Ukraine fulfills all necessary reforms earlier. However, regarding Ukraine's accession, the EU will be more vigilant and careful than it was in the case of Poland or Hungary in the 90s. This can be explained by the fact that the EU is now paying for its past hasty, so-called advance decisions, as it is now forced to consider certain "shortcomings" in some European countries regarding democracy and the rule of law.

"It will not be easy for Ukraine," the expert emphasized.

Ukraine's accession to the EU

Recall that in 2022, Ukraine obtained the status of a candidate for accession to the European Union.

According to Bloomberg, the European Commission will recommend starting the process of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU in October. Official approval by EU leaders is expected in December.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, stated that the timing of Ukraine's accession to the EU depends on when the country itself is ready.

Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said that Ukraine could become a member of the European Union in 2030 if both parties fulfill the conditions set before them.