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Ukraine's EU application

EU Agrees to Move to Next Step in Ukraine’s Membership Bid

A European Union (EU) flag flies outside the Berlaymont in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, October. 7, 2020. (Photo: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- European Union ambassadors agreed on Tuesday to call for an initial assessment of Ukraine’s chances of joining the 27-nation bloc.

By Alberto Nardelli and John Follain

Word Count: 587
The envoys will ask the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, to look into the possibility, according to officials who declined to be identified speaking on a confidential issue. EU leaders are expected to discuss Ukraine’s prospects at a summit in Paris on March 10-11, the officials said.The move follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy formally putting in a bid on Monday. Membership requires an arduous set of steps that can last more than a decade.Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday that she spoke to Zelenskiy about membership and that “there is still a long path ahead,” adding that nobody “can doubt that a people that stand up so bravely for our European values belong in our European family.”

Lobbying Effort

Ukraine has already received strong support from some member states. In an open letter to the EU, the leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia called for an immediate accession path to be opened for Ukraine. And on Tuesday Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki traveled to Brussels to lobby von der Leyen on the issue.

Zelenskiy’s appeal risks antagonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin as it highlights his strong push to align Ukraine with Europe and the western alliance.

But the process isn’t a short one. Croatia was the last country to join the bloc and its application process lasted 10 years before it was formally accepted in 2013.

For Ukraine, once the ambassadors make their request for an initial assessment, it will be up to the commission to determine if the country is ready to start the accession process. After that, the commission will present its view to EU member states, who have to make the final decision on moving forward.

Accession requires the candidate country to adopt established EU law as well as to enact reforms — including to its judicial and economic systems — to meet the bloc’s criteria.

Fast-Track Procedure

More than 30 policy areas are examined and negotiated to make sure the nation is prepared to join — and moving on to the next so-called chapter requires the consent of all member states. The move also requires the unanimous approval of all EU members, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Since the situation in Ukraine is dramatic, the EU could agree to speed up the procedure, according to another official, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. But there is little chance of the bloc granting membership to Ukraine soon, the official added. The European Council, which oversees accession procedures, could ask for an urgent opinion from the commission, another official said. That usually takes between 15 and 18 months, the official added.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Monday after talks with her Slovenian counterpart in Berlin that “the EU has always been a house with open doors” and “Ukraine is a part of the European house.” She added that “accession is not something that can be completed in a few months, but involves an intensive and far-reaching process of transformation.”

A move to fast-track the process risks angering countries that are also pushing for membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday expressed respect for the efforts to admit Ukraine to the EU, but added that the bloc shouldn’t wait for the bombing of Turkey to admit his country as well.

–With assistance from Selcan Hacaoglu.

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