It was an impassioned plea: With war raging in his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked in early March to allow his country to join the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc, which has helped maintain peace in Europe for decades.
“We have proven that we are at least just like you,” he told the European Parliament. “So prove that you’re with us, prove that you won’t let us go, prove that you’re really European.”
On Friday, his appeal received positive support when the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, recommended that Ukraine be granted candidate status in the country’s bid to become a member of the bloc.
However, Mr. Zelensky’s aspirations for the European Union are unlikely to be realized anytime soon: joining the bloc is a daunting and arduous process that can take up to a decade. Poland, for example, submitted an official application to join the bloc in 1994 and was not accepted until 2004.
For a country to join, its candidacy must be approved by all EU member states, which is now number 27. It must also bring its political system, judiciary and economy into line with the bloc by adopting the EU’s system of common law, plus more more From 80,000 pages of rules and regulations on things like environmental standards and food hygiene rules.
And although there are precedents for fast bidding – Sweden and Finland were able to join the union within a few years after bidding – a fast approach is rare. Moreover, other countries have been waiting for years to join, including Albania, Bosnia and Serbia, making it difficult for the EU to move faster on Ukraine.
Moreover, the bloc is also suffering from expansion fatigue after being shaken by economic crises, Brexit and the pandemic, as well as economic measures. Rule-breaking member states such as Hungary.
Ukraine was already on the path of consolidating itself closer to Europe and had an association agreement with the European Union, signed in 2014 and concluded in 2017, in which it agreed to intensify economic and political ties with the bloc.
Ukrainians were enthusiastic about the desire to establish closer ties with Europe, and in 2013 hundreds of thousands of them They took to the streets to protest When the president at the time, Victor F. Yanukovych, who was inclined to Russia, announced the signing of an association agreement with the Federation.
Whatever the challenges to Ukraine’s EU hopes, Russia’s war has generated an outpouring of solidarity in the bloc, attracting some The most severe punishments in its history. Eastern and Central European states such as Poland and the Baltic states, which for decades lived behind the Iron Curtain and where memories of Russian oppression deepen, were among the most enthusiastic in support of Ukraine’s membership.
Most Europeans welcomed the union’s eastward expansion in May 2004, when it accepted 10 mostly communist states – including the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – because, among other things, it cemented the demise of the Soviet bloc and helped spread economic and political liberalism across the continent.
The EU’s ability to offer countries membership has been one of the greatest foreign policy tools of the post-Cold War world. The prospect of joining forced Bulgaria and Romania to try to tackle corruption and expedite the arrests of war criminals in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro.
Although Ukraine’s EU membership process is likely to be gradual and faces significant challenges, the country’s attempt to forge closer ties with NATO and the European Union underscores how President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit by force appears to be struggling. opposite effect.
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