Ukrainian Accession to the European Union

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the president of the European Fee, Ursula von der Leyen, talking of Kyiv’s ties with the EU, stated that “they are one of us, they belong to us and we want them in.” These public remarks sparked a significant debate on Ukraine’s accession prospects and signify a discursive shift within the European Union’s stance concerning potential membership. A change in discourse is not going to mechanically result in Ukraine’s desires of accession being instantly fulfilled, nevertheless it strengthens the legitimacy of its bid, which is more and more perceived as a sound coverage choice.

Is Europe’s Newfound Unity a Liberal Phantasm?


After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed his nation’s utility for candidate standing, the European Parliament adopted a decision calling “for the EU institutions to work towards granting EU candidate status to Ukraine.” On this vein, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola confirmed that “we recognize Ukraine’s European perspective.” As well as, a bunch of eight member states expressed help for EU establishments to “conduct steps to immediately grant Ukraine [an] EU candidate country status and open the process of negotiations” as they “strongly believe that Ukraine deserves receiving an immediate EU accession perspective.”

No Direct Path

Ukraine’s path towards the EU was by no means a straight line main up thus far. Whereas former President Leonid Kuchma formulated Ukraine’s want to be part of the EU all through the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s, the bloc was initially reserved with regard to those aspirations. A Partnership and Cooperation Settlement (PCA) between the EU and Ukraine entered into pressure in March 1998, however an absence of implementation, in addition to the upsurge of autocratic tendencies in Ukrainian home politics, led former European Fee President Romano Prodi to formulate the “sharing everything with the Union but institutions” paradigm. 

In 2002, Prodi declared that we “cannot simply ignore what is happening beyond our borders. Neither can we solve problems with our new neighbours simply by letting them join the Union.” He was referring to endemic corruption, extreme impediments to the rule of regulation or lack of freedom and independence of the media that proceed to plague the nation. Freedom Home nonetheless labels Ukraine as solely “partly free.”

Regardless of this, EU–Ukraine cooperation intensified all through the years with the adoption of an EU–Ukraine Motion Plan and Kyiv becoming a member of the Japanese Partnership throughout the European Neighborhood Coverage (ENP) framework. Whereas the ENP establishes a “special relationship with 16 of its closest neighbours who are currently not considered potential candidates for joining the EU,” Ukraine maintained its rhetoric of a pro-EU membership course. 

The aftermath of the Euromaidan protests, the inauguration of a brand new Ukrainian authorities and the signing of the EU–Ukraine Affiliation Settlement in June 2014 had been accompanied by contradictory statements on the query of Ukrainian membership aspirations on the a part of the EU. Stefan Fule, the EU commissioner for enlargement and European neighborhood coverage, argued in favor of Ukraine‘s admission in the long run. 

Moreover, from 2014 onward, the European Parliament repeatedly acknowledged in its resolutions that UKraine has “a European perspective” and that “pursuant to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine — like any other European state — have a European perspective and may apply to become members of the Union provided that they adhere to the principles of democracy, respect fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights and ensure the rule of law.”

In distinction, then German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised in 2015 that the Japanese Partnership shall not be understood as an “instrument for EU-accession” and that “Ukraine must first meet all the envisaged conditions.” Much more explicitly, former EU Fee President Jean-Claude Juncker maintained that “Ukraine will definitely not be able to become a member of the EU in the next 20 to 25 years, and not of NATO either.”

Drawing Nearer

Juncker’s place and the EU’s extra cautious reactions concerning Ukraine’s membership aspirations mark a substantial distinction to the present discourse throughout the bloc. However whereas von der Leyen’s handle to the European Parliament is a optimistic step ahead, it doesn’t imply that the discursive shift on the topic will essentially result in Ukraine’s accession. As a substitute, such rhetoric contributes to rendering this coverage choice extra applicable and bonafide. 

In an effort to open this “policy space,” as Lene Hansen, professor of worldwide relations on the College of Copenhagen, put it in 2006, Ukraine’s drawing nearer to the bloc should be introduced as a plan of action that conforms with the EU’s id.

Following this line of thought, in her speech, von der Leyen highlighted Ukraine’s European character. Not solely did she declare that the outbreak of battle in Ukraine implies that “War has returned to Europe” (though battle has been ongoing in Japanese Ukraine since 2014), she additionally refers to Kyiv as a “European capital” and argues that “the European Union and Ukraine are already closer than ever before.” Von der Leyen additionally emphasised that “Nobody in this hemicycle can doubt that a people that stands up so bravely for our European values belongs in our European family.”

References to values don’t solely perform as a method to assemble a way of group with Ukraine. In addition they set up a transparent line of distinction to Russia. On this respect, von der Leyen cites a Ukrainian newspaper stating that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks “a clash of two worlds, two polar sets of values.” Von der Leyen builds on this quote and argues that “this is a clash between the rule of law and the rule of the gun; between democracies and autocracies; between a rules-based order and a world of naked aggression.” 

She attracts a transparent line not solely between the EU itself but in addition different actors who share these values and Russia on the diametrically opposed facet. That Ukraine continues to battle with corruption, restricted political rights and civil liberties in addition to a weak rule of regulation doesn’t match into this discourse and so is not related.

Von der Leyen holds that “If Putin was seeking to divide the European Union, to weaken NATO, and to break the international community, he has achieved exactly the opposite. We are more united than ever.” Certainly, this completely displays what Australian political scientist David Campbell identified already at first of the Nineteen Nineties, particularly that overseas coverage discourses lend themselves notably properly to the institution of an understanding of the within versus the (threatening) outdoors — that’s, to assemble id by means of distinction. 

In that sense, the EU doesn’t solely need to “stand up against this cruel aggression” because of the values that it shares with Ukraine and deems attacked by the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but in addition as a result of “The destiny of Ukraine is at stake, but our own fate also lies in the balance,” as von der Leyen states. Thus, the EU’s personal safety and freedom are intently linked to the scenario in Ukraine.

Diplomatic Tightrope

Whereas von der Leyen’s handle to the European Parliament completely helps the discursive shift that’s presently happening throughout the EU concerning nearer cooperation with Ukraine, she emphasizes that “There is still a long path ahead.” It stays unlikely that the EU will admit Ukraine through an accelerated process within the midst of an ongoing battle; this might override the Copenhagen Standards that decide whether or not a state is eligible to accede to the EU.

Nonetheless, the present discourse lays the inspiration for consolidating and popularizing the demand for Ukraine’s accession. Therefore, it’s now as much as the EU to search out methods to reconcile this discourse with Russian considerations and to de-escalate the continued battle. 

In accordance with Hiski Haukkala, a professor of Worldwide Relations on the College of Tampere, from 2014 onward, the EU has tried to carry out a balancing act between displaying solidarity with Ukraine and condemning Russia’s makes an attempt to discourage Kyiv from following a pro-European path whereas concurrently making an attempt to allay Moscow’s unease concerning these developments.

Just like Ukraine’s aspiration to affix NATO, Haukkala foresaw in 2015 “that both EU–Russia relations and the wider European security order will be in for a wider and longer disruption than has currently been witnessed” on account of this rising collision. That is precisely the scenario we discover ourselves in in the meanwhile.

How can the EU protect its credibility after stating that Ukraine “belongs to the European family” and that its “own fate also lies in the balance” with out including gas to the hearth of Russia’s safety considerations? What the EU wants now’s a transparent technique concerning a sustainable postwar European safety order that should be, whether or not we prefer it or not, coordinated with Moscow. This doesn’t imply that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is justified by supposed Russian safety considerations. 

Nonetheless, this battle should finish instantly so as to avert an immense humanitarian disaster and to stop the battle from spilling to neighboring nations. Contemplating that Georgia and Moldova are reported to be ready at hand of their EU membership utility any minute now, the union wants a extra sturdy, diplomatically delicate technique towards the japanese nations with which it maintains affiliation agreements. The EU urgently wants to offer solutions to the query of the way it might attempt for additional japanese enlargement with out it being met with Russian aggression. 

When requested in regards to the earliest potential date for Ukrainian accession, von der Leyen replied that “This is hard to say. … Reforms have to be done, processes have to be set up.” This means {that a} clear strategy towards Europe’s japanese neighborhood and to Russia particularly remains to be wanting.

In her speech, Ursula von der Leyen adopted the phrase “Slava Ukraini” — “Glory to Ukraine” — utilized by President Zelenskyy throughout his handle to the European Parliament. The phrase is a greeting that grew to become intently related to the Euromaidan protests in up to date Ukrainian public consciousness. It conveys the imaginative and prescient of an impartial and free Ukraine searching for cooperation with the EU. 

Whereas the European Union’s discourse demonstrates that this imaginative and prescient already resonates extra strongly than ever earlier than, it appears unlikely that Ukraine will have the ability to be part of the EU anytime quickly. The European Council has to unanimously approve a rustic’s utility, which can stay unrealistic so long as the core drawback of overcoming the dividing line between the West and the EU on the one hand and Russia on the opposite stays unresolved.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.

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