Europe opens the door to Ukraine. The European Commission proposed this Friday to the governments of the block, which will have the last word, that they grant that nation the status of a candidate country for accession, something that was out of all the scenarios shortly before the war.
The most important European leaders have been repeating for weeks that send a signal to both Ukraine and Russia. kyiv is told that it belongs to “the European family”. To Moscow that the zones of influence are over and that each State, whatever its past, is free to decide its future.
The 27 heads of state or government must approve that proposal next week at a European summit that seemed to go to hell until the Frenchman Emmanuel Macron, the German Olaf Scholz and the Italian Mario Draghi traveled to kyiv on Thursday and promised their support. to Ukrainian aspirations.
Few countries drag their feet anymore. Some (mainly Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or the Baltics) because they strongly support the granting of this status to Ukraine.
Most because they know what it is a mere symbol that may mean nothing and that each government will have dozens of opportunities in the coming years to block the entire process.
Ukraine’s president, Volodimir Zelensky, has been calling for his country’s entry into the European Union for months. Photo: AFP
a long road
Joining the European Union is a long processwhich has become more complicated over the years and decades as European integration deepened, and which takes several stages.
The European Commission proposes that this status be granted, with or without conditions. Governments approve or not. The country in question, in this case Ukraine (and Moldova, which go hand in hand) begins to a list of reforms demanded by Brussels. When the European Commission certifies that these reforms have been made, the Member States must, again unanimously, give their approval.
then start a 34-chapter negotiation process (35 in the case of Serbia due to its conflict with Kosovo). There are chapters on Justice or Rule of Law passing through the Environment, Energy or Education.
Each chapter begins to be negotiated when the 27 give their approval unanimously and is closed again with a unanimous vote of the 27. When all this process is finished, the European Commission returns to make a report, which must be approved again by the Member States and the European Parliament. The ordeal ends with the ratification of each national Parliament.
The obstacle race it can be done relatively quickly, as Croatia did, which took just 10 years. But Zagreb was the last capital to go through such an accelerated process. Since then (2014) no country joined the European Union.
Albania and North Macedonia have their processes blocked de facto by the vetoes of countries like Bulgaria or Greece. Serbia does not advance an inch. Turkey has been a candidate since 1999 but nobody sees interest neither in Ankara nor in Brussels.
Montenegro, with less than a million inhabitants, richer than Ukraine and relatively stable, has been waiting for 14 years and only closed two of 34 chapters. If there is a European commissioner with little work, it is the one for Enlargement because in the big capitals there is no appetite to make the bloc grow.
What real options does Ukraine have? Although today they seem true, the geography, economy, geopolitics and even the history of Europe conspire so that this enlargement is probably the most difficult carried out to date.
Ukraine is not a dwarf. With more than 40 million inhabitants, its income would increase the population of the block by almost 10%.. It would be the poorest country and, according to organizations such as Transparency International, the most corrupt and the one with the most problems with the rule of law.
European Union flags in Brussels. The admission process is not simple. Photo: REUTERS
Its agri-food weight would take a large part of the CAP aid and a new distribution of cohesion funds and structural funds would have to be made, which would harm the countries of Eastern Europe. Complying with the acquis communautaire, the tens of thousands of pages of European legislation, would be an exercise of generations.
To all this is added that Ukraine would enter making the European Union a potential military enemy of Russiabecause as in the case of NATO, European treaties include a mutual defense clause.
A diplomatic source from a Scandinavian country with long experience in Brussels assured this Friday: “The war will end but Russia will still be there. Ukraine will have to make much greater political reforms than those made by countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria or Romania.”
The same official remarked: “With the Russian threat constantly on top. With some oligarchs who have little to envy the Russians. Years will pass and the country will be just another candidate, probably with little progress and many frustrations. The leaders who now promise a road to Brussels will be writing their memoirs by then and will not be responsible. Those who will then deal with the problem may still be in high school.